Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Pain Management Health Center

Font Size

7 Myths About Cancer Pain

What you believe about cancer pain can hurt you. About one out of three people with cancer experience pain. For nine out of 10 of these people, pain can be relieved relatively simply. Yet many patients let their misconceptions about cancer pain prevent them from seeking help.

Following are common cancer myths and the facts about cancer pain.

Recommended Related to Pain Management

Hip Impingement

Your hip is the joint where your thigh bone meets your pelvis. It is called a ball-and-socket joint because the ball-like top of your thigh bone fits into a cup-like area within your pelvis, much like a baseball fits into a glove. Normally, the ball glides smoothly within the socket, but a problem with the ball or socket rim can interfere with smooth motion. This problem can cause hip impingement or femoro acetabular impingement (FAI). It is believed to be a major cause of arthritis of the...

Read the Hip Impingement article > >

Cancer Pain Myth No. 1: The doctor should know I have pain without my having to say so.

Everyone responds to pain differently. Some people show many external signs. Others feel a lot of pain without showing what they feel inside. Don't make your doctor guess the level of your pain. Instead, tell your doctor as much as you can about your cancer pain:

  • Where it hurts
  • When it hurts
  • The type of pain
  • Its severity

The more your doctor knows about your cancer pain, the more likely it is that your doctor can work with you to find a way to reduce it.

Cancer Pain Myth No. 2: Cancer Pain is inevitable.

Pain is not inevitable. Is it likely? Perhaps. An estimated one of every three people undergoing cancer treatment experience pain. Fifty percent to 80% of people with advanced cancer have moderate to severe pain.

Cancer Pain Myth No. 3: There's nothing that can be done to relieve cancer pain.

If pain does occur, your doctor can develop a plan to relieve it. First, your doctor will try to identify the source of the pain. Potential sources of cancer pain include these:

  • Advanced cancer that spreads to the bones
  • Tumors that press on the spinal cord or cause a bowel obstruction
  • Infection
  • Treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation

From medication to procedures, your doctor has a range of options to help treat cancer pain.

  • Oral medication
  • Radiation therapy to shrink a pain-causing tumor
  • Epidural injections and nerve blocks
  • Surgery

Work with your doctor to develop a pain management plan that works for you.

Cancer Pain Myth No. 4: Complaining about pain is for wimps. Enduring pain builds character.

Where does this idea come from? Lots of places. Age, ethnicity, cultural values, and previous experience with pain may lead you to develop this attitude. However, pain is more than an uncontrollable state you have to put up with. Enduring pain puts you at risk for a host of complications:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue due to loss of sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to work
  • Impaired relationships

If you seek treatment for cancer pain, you may find that your ability to perform daily activities and your quality of life may improve.

Cancer Pain Myth No. 5: When I feel pain, I should hold off as long as possible before taking medication.

There is no value in waiting to take pain medication. In fact, the best outcomes occur when you take medication as prescribed, keeping the pain continuously reduced. Don't skip prescribed doses.

WebMD Feature

Today on WebMD

pain in brain and nerves
Top causes and how to find relief.
knee exercise
8 exercises for less knee pain.
 
acupuncture needles in woman's back
How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
chronic pain
Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
 
illustration of nerves in hand
Slideshow
lumbar spine
Slideshow
 
Woman opening window
Slideshow
Man holding handful of pills
Video
 
Woman shopping for vegetables
Slideshow
Sore feet with high heel shoes
Slideshow
 
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Slideshow
man with a migraine
Slideshow