Florida Pain Medicine is a rotation site and teaching facility for USF Health ACGME Pain Medicine Fellowship and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Residency.

Can Nerve Blocks Help With Cancer Pain?

Can Nerve Blocks Help With Cancer Pain?

Cancer pain is incredibly complex. The pain you experience during cancer treatment arises from multiple causes. And pain continues to plague 40% of cancer survivors. 

No matter where you are in your cancer journey, your health and wellbeing improve when you have personalized cancer pain management that keeps your pain under control.

The compassionate team at Florida Pain Medicine wants you to know that you should never put up with cancer pain that persists despite potent medications. They specialize in interventional procedures such as nerve blocks that give you much needed pain relief. 

About cancer pain

Cancer pain arises from the tumor and as a side effect of your cancer treatment. The pain associated with tumors often comes from inflammation or the tumor pressing against or damaging nerves and bones. 

Treatment-related pain develops after surgery, as well as during and after chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Chemotherapy often damages nerves and causes widespread joint and muscle pain. In addition to causing nerve damage, radiation therapy can lead to distinct pain syndromes as it affects healthy tissues.

This information is far from comprehensive, but it gives you an idea about the complexity of cancer pain and why it’s often a challenge to control. 

When you have cancer-related pain, it’s time to learn about treatment options such as nerve blocks.

How nerve blocks work

A nerve block stops pain signals from traveling through the nerves to your brain. When your brain doesn’t get the message, you get relief from the pain.

Since we precisely target the nerve receiving the treatment, we can block different types of pain. We can stop pain signals arising from one or more specific nerves damaged by the tumor. Or we can target the nerves carrying pain signals from a certain region of your body.

During a nerve block, we inject a local anesthetic into or around a nerve, or into the epidural space of the spinal cord. We may combine the anesthetic with a steroid to reduce nerve inflammation. In some cases, we may inject other substances such as ethanol that produce longer-lasting results.

If you have a successful nerve block, we may recommend a procedure like radiofrequency ablation. For this procedure, we use radio waves to create a wound on the nerve. The wound blocks pain signals until the nerve regenerates and heals, which typically takes nine months or longer.

Nerve blocks for cancer pain

Nearly any nerve or group of nerves in your body and spinal cord are good candidates for a nerve block. These are a few examples of the nerves we can target and the type of cancer pain they help relieve:

Intercostal nerve block

Blocking the intercostal nerves relieves pain originating in the chest wall, upper abdomen, and back. This nerve block often helps people treated for lung and breast cancer. 

Celiac plexus block

A celiac plexus block targets pain coming from your abdomen. It can help people with pancreatic, gastric, liver, and bile duct cancers. This type of block also interferes with pain originating from your intestines and other abdominal structures. 

Brachial plexus block

When cancer invades the brachial plexus nerves in your shoulder, it typically causes severe upper arm pain that resists medical treatment. A nerve block targeting this area relieves the pain. 

Trigeminal nerve block

You can get relief from pain caused by head and neck cancers with a trigeminal nerve block. 

Stellate ganglion block

Treating this group of nerves eases the pain caused by tumors and nerve damage in your chest, arm, neck, and head. 

Hypogastric plexus block

If you have cervical, uterine, or prostate cancer, or pelvic pain due to cancer treatments, a superior hypogastric plexus block eases the pain.

You don’t need to put up with cancer pain. To learn about your treatment choices, call Florida Pain Medicine, or book an appointment online today.

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