One type of cancer is distinct from others due to its painfulness—these everyday methods can alleviate the pain, and sauna is not necessarily one of them

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As cancer becomes metastasised, it typically causes more pain. Oncologist Olga Maslennikova from Docrates Cancer Center shares the best ways for pain relief, which is particularly important in the case of pancreatic cancer.

The patient’s pain is largely dependent on the type of cancer, tumor staging and where the metastases are located. Typically, early stage localised cancer does not cause any symptoms or pain if the tumor is small. As the tumor spreads, the pain becomes more severe.

“Pancreatic cancer is one type of cancer that causes intense pain and, possibly, very severe symptoms. It is also commonly known that pain might be one of the first symptoms of pancreatic cancer and this is often the clue that leads to the diagnosis. Practically all other types of cancer cause pain when they spread. It can be said that if a cancer metastasises, the pain is significant in almost all cases,” says Docrates Cancer Center’s oncologist Olga Maslennikova.

Several reasons for pain

There are several reasons for pain. Sometimes, the pain can be caused by a local inflammation or the simple fact that the tumor mass is exerting pressure on a certain part of the body.

“Nerve pain, for example, is a common symptom when a tumor presses against a nerve or if it is located in nervous tissue. Pain can also be caused by bone metastases that cause the tissue of the bone to become abnormal. Liver cancer can cause pain if the tumor grows and expands the fibrous capsule of the liver. In general, pain does not have a single cause, but there are several mechanisms at play at the same time,” says Maslennikova.

“Psychological aspects are also essentially related to pain. Anxiety and depression are very common symptoms among cancer patients, which can make the patients more sensitive to the pain. However, pain is a very subjective concept and it cannot be verified through examinations,” she adds.

Proven benefits from music therapy

According to Maslennikova, there are many ways for a cancer patient to alleviate their pain at home. Smoking and alcohol can make neuropathic pain worse and quitting these is recommended. Before trying any methods related to physical activity or diet, you should consult with your attending physician, as individual aspects must be taken into account even when using self-management methods.

“For example, if the pain is caused by an inflammation, sauna and heat therapy can have adverse effects even if they alleviate the pain temporarily. Cold therapy is a better option. In general, physical activity is a very good way to alleviate chronic pain, in particular, but you should ask for advice from a physician or a physiotherapist regarding the ideal way of exercising. Appropriate diets vary greatly between individuals and there are no generally applicable rules other than the diet being healthy. Docrates offers the services of a dietician who will provide individual instructions that are ideal for different types of cancer and the latest test and examination results of the patient,” says Maslennikova.

“Mindfulness and other relaxation techniques can also help alleviate the pain by relieving anxiety. Even music therapy has been applied in alleviating the pain caused by cancer. Practically all forms of therapy that ease the mind can also help with physical pain,” she adds.

Massaging requires care

Maslennikova says that nowadays pain alleviation is a big and central part of cancer treatment. The patient’s feelings of pain and the reasons behind them are studied extensively throughout the process.

“Cancer treatment in itself can already alleviate the symptoms of pain, but pain treatment has also come a long way. At Docrates, our patients have very good experiences of physiotherapy where they have received individual instructions for pain alleviation according to the type or stage of their cancer, for instance. Massaging can provide some help with the pain, but you must be careful with it depending on the type of cancer, which is why a physician should always be consulted before trying any methods on your own,” says Maslennikova.

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