Neuropathic cancer pain: What we are dealing with? How to manage it?
Ece Esin, Suayib Yalcin
Medical Oncology Department, Hacettepe University Cancer Institute, Ankara, Turkey
Abstract: Cancer pain is a serious health problem, and imposes a great burden on the lives of patients and their families. Pain can be associated with delay in treatment, denial of treatment, or failure of treatment. If the pain is not treated properly it may impair the quality of life. Neuropathic cancer pain (NCP) is one of the most complex phenomena among cancer pain syndromes. NCP may result from direct damage to nerves due to acute diagnostic/therapeutic interventions. Chronic NCP is the result of treatment complications or malignancy itself. Although the reason for pain is different in NCP and noncancer neuropathic pain, the pathophysiologic mechanisms are similar. Data regarding neuropathic pain are primarily obtained from neuropathic pain studies. Evidence pertaining to NCP is limited. NCP due to chemotherapeutic toxicity is a major problem for physicians. In the past two decades, there have been efforts to standardize NCP treatment in order to provide better medical service. Opioids are the mainstay of cancer pain treatment; however, a new group of therapeutics called coanalgesic drugs has been introduced to pain treatment. These coanalgesics include gabapentinoids (gabapentin, pregabalin), antidepressants (tricyclic antidepressants, duloxetine, and venlafaxine), corticosteroids, bisphosphonates, N-methyl-d-aspartate antagonists, and cannabinoids. Pain can be encountered throughout every step of cancer treatment, and thus all practicing oncologists must be capable of assessing pain, know the possible underlying pathophysiology, and manage it appropriately. The purpose of this review is to discuss neuropathic pain and NCP in detail, the relevance of this topic, clinical features, possible pathology, and treatments of NCP.
Keywords: neuropathy, cancer pain, coanalgesics
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