For patients, caregivers and family members of the CTCA Community
Pain Management

The first thing you should know about pain is that it affects each person differently. Your pain may not be the same as anyone else’s—and your pain management techniques may be different, too.

If you have cancer, you are likely to face physical pain or discomfort at some point, as a result of the illness itself or as a side effect of treatment. With proper pain management, you may sleep and eat better, enjoy the company of family and friends, and continue with your work and hobbies. 

Causes of cancer-related pain

Your discomfort may vary depending on the type, location and stage of your cancer and your personal pain threshold. Some of the most common sources of pain are:

  • Infection or inflammation
  • Side effects from surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or immunotherapy
  • Stiffness from inactivity
  • Pressure on tissues, bones, nerves or organs from a tumor
  • Poor blood circulation from cancer blocking blood vessels
  • Blockage of an organ or tube in the body
  • Metastasis (the spread of cancer cells to other sites in the body)
  • Tension, depression or anxiety

No matter where your pain originates, you should address it quickly so you can direct your energy toward healing.

Five tips for managing cancer-related pain

1. Stay on top of it. Notify your doctor as soon as you experience any pain. Do not wait until it becomes severe—it is easier to manage and relieve pain when it is when treated early. Plus, pain can be an important signal to your doctor about the effectiveness of your treatment.

2. Take your pain medication as instructed by your doctor. Resist the urge to “hold off” as long as possible between doses, because pain often gets worse over time. If you delay your medication schedule, you may require larger doses of medication before you feel relief.

3. The pain you experience is unique to you. Others with the same cancer type as you, who are undergoing the same treatment, may experience pain differently. Only you know how much and what kind of pain you have.

 4. You have a right to pain relief. You should never view discussing your pain as a sign of weakness. Always ask for help when you need it! Knowing about your pain helps your doctor better understand how your cancer and cancer treatments are affecting your body.

5. Medication is just one route to relief. There are many effective pain medications, but some can cause side effects such as constipation, nausea or drowsiness. Your doctor can help manage these side effects and may recommend other integrative therapies for pain relief, such as mind-body medicine or naturopathic medicine.

You may be interested in these resources:

Naturopathic medicine uses natural, non-toxic therapies to treat the whole person and encourage the self-healing process.


Mind-body medicine links physical health with psychological and spiritual wellness.