What Causes Pain in Mesothelioma Patients?

When a patient experiences aches and discomfort caused by mesothelioma or other cancer, it’s usually because the tumors have grown large enough to press on tissues, nerves, organs, or bones. For tumors to cause noticeable pain, mesothelioma has to be in later stages, although some patients may notice symptoms earlier. Type of cancer and tumor location will also affect pain levels. Treatments like chemotherapy are other factors that cause discomfort and aches in patients. Some medications may cause burning sensations in the injection spot, or a person may experience pain after surgery or radiation, as both can cause soreness and skin irritation.

There are several ways a person can cope with or manage symptoms of pain. Coping techniques depend on where the discomfort is and how often it happens. The doctor can recommend treatment, medication, or therapy to help manage this mesothelioma symptom after an examination.

Other Causes

Cancer or related treatments aren’t the only reasons a person may experience aches in the body. Other reasons someone may feel pain include:

  • Anemia
  • Arthritis
  • Cold or Flu
  • Dehydration
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Lack of Sleep
  • Low Vitamin D
  • Pneumonia
  • Stress

Tell your doctor if you think you’re experiencing pain for any of these reasons.

Acute and Chronic Pain

Pain from cancer or other conditions can be either acute or chronic. When it’s acute, it’s usually caused by an injury and tends to last a short period. If pain develops after surgery, for example, it’s most likely caused by the operation and will disappear when the wound has healed. One type of acute pain is incidental, for instance when bandages are removed, the patient may experience intense pain for a short time.

Chronic pain is more severe and can be caused by a number of changes in the body. Some changes can include nerve damage from tumors pressing on them. Chronic issues can last long after injury or treatment has ended. Level of discomfort can be mild or severe and can affect the patient most or all of the time.

Types of Cancer Pain

To determine the cause of pain and whether treatment is necessary, the doctor must first know where it’s coming from. Aches from cancer can affect bones, nerves, soft tissues, or mental health.


Also called somatic pain, it happens when tumors grow and spread to the bone. One area of the bone may be affected, or tumors may have spread to multiple spots, causing pain in more than one location.


This type of pain is also called neuropathic and is caused by pressure on the nerves or spinal cord. Neuropathic pain can also be caused by nerve damage.

Soft Tissue

Pain originating from soft tissue comes from an organ or muscle. This type is harder to pinpoint, but it can be characterized by a sharp, cramping, aching, or throbbing discomfort.

Phantom Pain

When an area or part of the body is removed, sometimes a patient may experience phantom aches. Doctors theorize that this happens because the brain can’t quite comprehend the loss of a body part. One example is a person who’s had a leg amputated but still feels pain where the leg once was.

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Depending on the type of pain and where it’s located, the doctor will recommend specific ways to treat it. A doctor may suggest the following methods:


There are medicines available that the doctor can prescribe to alleviate discomfort. Over-the-counter options may also help and don’t need a prescription. Regardless of whether you need a prescription medicine or not, talk to your doctor before ingesting anything for relief.

Medical Procedures

Also known as palliative care, medical procedures meant for pain management may also be an option. Surgery is often used to remove tumors that are pressing on nerves and causing discomfort. Chemotherapy and radiation are also used in palliative care to help patients manage.

Psychological Tactics

Several cancer patients may experience feelings of depression and anxiety among other things that can add to the physical pain experienced. When a patient has negative feelings or emotions, this can drain the body of energy or strength that helps them cope with aches and discomfort from cancer. If a person has good results with a psychiatrist, this could help the patient manage their physical aches better as well.

Complementary Treatments

People have seen results with therapies like acupuncture, massage, and hypnosis. Patients have also reported cancer symptom relief in complementary therapies like yoga and meditation.

Your doctor will be able to map out a treatment plan to help you cope with cancer pain if it becomes unmanageable. Tell your doctor before you consider complementary treatments.

When to Talk to Your Doctor

Some acute discomfort will go away on its own. When pain is chronic or accompanied by other symptoms, call your doctor. Let someone know if there is:

  • Excessive pain that lasts longer than expected
  • Extreme muscle weakness or fatigue
  • High fever and stiff neck
  • Loss or ability to empty or control bladder or bowel
  • Sudden increase in pain intensity
  • Trouble breathing or dizziness

These changes should tell you and your doctor that something is different. Your doctor will be able to administer tests to figure out if the pain is serious. It can be challenging for doctors to pinpoint the exact cause in some situations, but they’ll be able to tell you if it’s something to worry about and what you can do about it.

Mesothelioma Support Team

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