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Acupuncture and the Treatment of Cancer Pain

Harrie Anne Kessler, MS, MAc, LAc

There are many definitions of pain. Margo McCaffrey, MSN, RN, FAAN, author and internationally recognized specialist in the nursing care of patients with pain, says, Pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is, and exists whenever he says it does. The International Association for the Study of Pain says it is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience coming from actual or potential tissue damage or, at least, described in terms of such damage. However pain is defined, it hurts and has both emotional and physical aspects.

Causes of Cancer Pain:
Pain can be caused by a disease itself as well as by certain treatments. Up to 50% of people with cancer experience pain while undergoing treatment,1 and some 70% to 90% of people with advanced cancer experience pain.2,3 Cancer is treated with a variety of procedures, including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Cancer pain arises when a tumor or its metastases invade or press on nerves, vessels, bone, and nearby tissues. It can stretch or compress normal tissue or obstruct a blood vessel, thus causing pain. There may be reduced blood supply, infection, or tissue necrosis, which can also cause pain. Pain is usually related to the location of the tumor, its pattern, and its speed of growth. Secondary pain is often caused by obstruction and infection of organs in the vicinity of the tumor. A small tumor located near a nerve or the spinal cord may be very painful, whereas a larger tumor elsewhere may not cause discomfort.

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