How to Manage Cancer-Related Pain

Pain is a frequent, yet often overlooked, consequence of cancer.  An estimated 70 percent of those with cancer experience significant pain during their illness, yet fewer than half receive adequate treatment for their pain.1  If pain is not managed properly, it can worsen the physical, emotional and psychological toll of cancer.

Pain can result from a variety of sources, including the cancer itself (tumor growth, spinal cord compression), medical tests, and treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.² Uncontrolled pain may interfere with cancer treatment, weaken the body, and impair the healing process.  It can also prevent people from engaging in everyday activities that make life more fulfilling.³

According to Kim Thiboldeaux, President and CEO of the Cancer Support Community, managing pain can and should be an important part of overall cancer care.

“Pain doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of cancer,” says Thiboldeaux.  “There are multiple options available to manage pain.  For instance, many patients can benefit from an integrative approach that combines prescription or over-the-counter medications with complementary therapies such as yoga, acupuncture and guided imagery.”

One of the keys to effective pain management is open and honest communication with your healthcare professional.  Prepare for medical appointments by keeping a journal, and note the severity, location, frequency, and duration of pain. Thiboldeaux also urges patients to learn as much as possible about pain management, and to be actively involved in the development of an individualized treatment plan.

To learn more, go to  The site features tools and information to help patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals better understand and manage pain.

1. American Pain Foundation. Pain Facts & Figures. Available at: Accessed:
May 2011.

2. Mayo Clinic: Cancer pain: Relief is possible.  Available at:  Accessed: May 2011.

3. American Cancer Society.  Incidence and Mortality Ends Committee. Accessed: May 2011.

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