Types of cancer pain

Pain is a defence mechanism that the body uses to signal the presence of a threat. It is a language that your nervous system uses to alert you to a problem and motivate you to take action to avoid further damage to your body. For example, if you put your hand on something hot a message provokes your immediate reaction to move your hand away.

Cancer pain is common in the early stages of the disease, occurring in 30-50% of cancer patients at this stage. Pain symptoms are a factor in 64% of all cancer diagnoses and often allow people to receive timely treatment. In advanced stages of cancer, pain affects between 70-90% of patients with advanced, metastatic or terminal disease.

Everyone experiences pain differently and the way it presents and evolves during the course of the disease is unique, manifesting itself with different frequency and intensity. An important distinction is between chronic pain (that is continuously present) and acute pain (that arises suddenly with very high intensity).

This app was devised to track episodes of acute pain, commonly referred to by doctors as breakthrough cancer pain (abbreviated as BTcP). BTcP was first defined in a 1990 scientific article as “a transient increase in pain of more than moderate intensity (ie, an intensity of “acute” or “stabbing”), which overlaps with a moderate or less than moderate baseline pain intensity”.

BTcP is a rapid onset, temporary (average duration is 30 minutes), severe flare-up of an underlying pain for which therapy is already being taken. BTcP can be controlled with additional therapy but to identify the appropriate intervention your doctor needs to have detailed information about your BTcP episodes.