Healthy living after treatment for childhood cancer
Version 3.0 - 10/08
Copyright 2008 © Children’s Oncology Group
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Pain in cancer survivors
Pain is a common experience during cancer treatment, either from the cancer itself
or from the treatment. Usually, after the treatment is finished, there is no more pain.
For some people, however, pain continues to be a side effect of either the cancer or its
treatment, even when the cancer is in remission and treatment has been completed. For
cancer survivors, long-term pain may occur for a variety of reasons, such as damage to
bones, joints, or nerves resulting from treatment with radiation, surgery, certain
chemotherapy medications, or corticosteroids.
What is the difference between acute and chronic pain?
Acute pain is generally the result of illness (such as cancer), injury and/or surgery and
is usually confined to a limited period of time. Acute pain has a biologic purpose, that
is, it tells us that we are hurt or ill, so that we can protect ourselves.
Chronic pain lasts after the underlying illness or injury has resolved. Chronic pain is
a problem because the longer the pain lasts, the more complicated it might become,
particularly in the way it could affect a survivor’s quality of life.
Pain is very complex
Healthcare providers used to think that the amount of pain a person had was directly
related to the extent of physical damage to body tissue. Healthcare providers now know
that the pain people feel is affected by many physical, emotional, and cognitive factors
that are unique to each individual.
Recent studies involving new technology to study the brain are confirming that many
processes are involved in chronic pain. The experience of pain is the result of a
complex interchange of information from many different areas of the brain. These
studies have also helped us to understand that pain can sometimes persist (even when
the original injury has healed) due to changes in the way the body sends