Cancer Home > Chemotherapy-Related Pain

Chemotherapy-related pain can include damage to the nerves, which may lead to burning, numbness, or shooting pain. There are a number of things that you should be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you are undergoing chemotherapy and pain becomes a problem. A few of these things include where you feel the pain, how strong the pain feels, and how long it lasts. Taking your pain medicine on a regular basis and using relaxation practices can help to alleviate this pain.

An Overview of Pain With Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy drugs can cause some side effects that are painful. The drugs may damage nerves, which can lead to burning, numbness, tingling, or shooting pain (most often in the fingers or toes). Some drugs can also cause mouth sores, headaches, muscle pain, and abdominal pain (or stomach pain).

How Common Is Chemotherapy-Related Pain?

Not everyone with cancer -- and not everyone who receives chemotherapy -- experiences pain from the disease or its treatment. However, if you do experience chemotherapy-related pain, it can be relieved. The first step to take is to talk with your healthcare provider, nurse, and pharmacist about your pain. They need to know as many details about your pain as possible. You may want to describe your pain to your family and friends. They can help you talk with your healthcare providers about your pain, especially if you are too tired or in too much pain to talk with them yourself.
Some of the things that you need to tell your healthcare provider, nurse, pharmacist, and family or friends include:
  • Where you feel pain
  • What it feels like (sharp, dull, throbbing, and/or steady)
  • How strong the pain feels
  • How long it lasts
  • What eases the pain and what makes the pain worse
  • What medicines you are taking for the pain and how much relief you get from them.
Using a pain scale is helpful in describing how much pain you are feeling. Try to assign a number from 0 to 10 to your pain level. If you have no pain, use a "0." As the numbers get higher, they stand for pain that is getting worse. A "10" means the pain is as bad as it can possibly be. You may wish to use your own pain scale using numbers from 0 to 5 or even 0 to 100. Be sure to let others know what pain scale you are using and use the same scale each time, for example, "My pain is 7 on a scale of 0 to 10."
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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