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Bone Pain Caused By Metastatic Cancer

written by: Time2go • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 11/30/2010

Anyone suffering from pain due to cancer complications has more than likely reached the advanced stages of cancer. Once cancer has spread to the bone, the metastatic bone cancer pain tends to increase over time. Several treatment options help lessen this pain.

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    Why Does Cancer Cause Bone Pain?

    Normally, metastatic bone cancer pain occurs when cancer affects the cells that provide strength for the bones. When this happens, the cell might become either denser than normal, or too fragile to function as an ordinary cell. This type of activity aggravates the nerve tissue located in the bones, which can lead to immense pain.

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    Medication Options

    Often times, a doctor recommends a non-prescription drug for patients who suffer mild metastatic bone cancer pain. You can purchase these drugs over the counter. OTC drugs used for this type of pain include acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It is very important to know that taking NSAIDs or acetaminophen can cause the stomach to bleed and may also cause injury to the liver and kidneys.

    For more severe pain, the doctor can prescribe stronger painkillers that contain opioids. Some popular examples of opioids are codeine, Vicodin, and Oxycontin. These drugs are so powerful because they create a state of euphoria. The most common side effects of taking opioid drugs include itching, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting. Unfortunately, these drugs contain chemicals that can lead to dependency and drug addiction.

    For numbness, burning and other nerve sensations triggered by metastatic cancer, medications that affect the neurons ease the pain. Examples of drugs that treat this type of pain include anti-seizure drugs, or antidepressants that contain gabapentin and divalproex. The side effects of these drugs include dry mouth, dizziness, drowsiness, and constipation.

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    Radiation Therapy

    Patients who have reached advanced stages of cancer may need to undergo radiation therapy, which is another method that is used to alleviate the pain of cancer. However, radiation can harm bone marrow if not properly administered, and if the bone marrow becomes damaged, the person may develop leukemia or experience a reduced blood count.

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    Cryoablation

    There is a new and innovative technique that is currently being researched in order to aid in easing this type of pain. The new method is called cryoablation, which freezes the cancer cells and supposedly keeps them from spreading. This is performed by a doctor, who places a thin probe directly on the area or bone that has the cancerous tumors. Once the probe has been put in place, the doctor administers the ice. Cryotherapy is said to be a tremendous help for relieving the pain that is linked to bone cancer. One of the biggest benefits of this treatment is that it is non-invasive. The needles now used for cryoablation are so small that the doctor only has to make a small nick in the skin. This reduces the risks associated with pain treatment and also makes it easier for those experiencing bone pain to recover and go back to their usual activities.

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    Sources

    National Cancer Institute:Bone Cancer: Questions and Answers: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Sites-Types/bone

    American Cancer Society, Inc: Detailed Guide: Bone Cancer http://our.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_3X_How_is_bone_cancer_diagnosed_2.asp:

    American Pain Foundation: http://www.painfoundation.org

    American Academy of Pain Management: http://www.aapainmanage.org

    http://our.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_3X_How_is_bone_cancer_diagnosed_2.asp