Five Pains that Point to Cancer

Pain is the body’s warning system that alerts us that something is not right. Here are 5 pains that could suggest a serious illness is underway.

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Head Pain

While chronic headaches are debilitating, they are not usually caused by brain tumors. However there are some types of headaches that are particularly worrisome. The brain is contained in the skull, so when tumors invade there is no place for the brain to expand. The tumor impinges on the tissue and fluid inside of the brain is unable to drain naturally.

The Brain Cancer Tipoff: Chronic early morning headache, or one that wakes you from sleep, that is also associated with nausea, vomiting, changes in sensation, vision, speech or balance, can be a sign of a brain tumor.

Bone Pain

When we think of pain we usually focus our attention to soft tissue. But bone is tissue too and pain can be experienced here as well. Bone is comprised of a dense mineralized tissue and softer hollow called bone marrow, where stem cells are produced that eventually turn into mature platelets, white blood cells and red blood cells. Cancer can arise in bone or travel from another location in the body (metastasis). When cancer invades the dense matrix that makes bone hard, it weakens the structure and makes them more prone to fracture.

One type of blood cell cancer called multiple myeloma affects blood plasma cells, a type of cell involved in immunity. It causes tiny holes throughout bone that can weaken and fracture easily. As the cancerous cells become more abundant in the marrow, it crowds out healthy stem cells so they never have a chance to mature into healthy platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells.

The Multiple Myeloma Tipoff: Chronic bone pain, back pain, unexplained fractures, anemia, frequent infections, and fatigue can be a sign of multiple myeloma.

Reporting Pain to Your Doctor

The type of pain you experience can offer clues to its cause. Keep these factors in mind when describing your pain to your doctor. 

  • Where the pain is located
  • When you first noticed the pain
  • What precipitated the pain
  • How long you have had the pain
  • How long the pain lasts when it comes
  • How often the pain occurs
  • What you do or take that makes it worse
  • What you do or take that makes it better
  • What it feels like - stabbing, throbbing, stinging etc.
  • What other symptoms you have
  • What you think it is

For more tips on being a smart patient, click here.