The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that there will be an estimated 191,300 new cases of cancer (excluding about 76,100 non-melanoma skin cancers) and 76,600 deaths will occur in Canada in 2014.  Although cancer can occur at any age, the risk of developing cancer increases as people get older. It has been estimated that over 70% of new cases of cancer occurred in people age 60 and older, and this number is expected to dramatically increase as the population ages (CCS, 2013).

Most patients will experience cancer pain at some point in the course of their disease. Cancer pain is among the most common and feared symptoms. Pain may be due to the disease process itself, such as a tumor pressing on a nerve or infiltrating bone. Alternatively, the pain may be related to cancer treatments such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of these adjuvant therapies. Cancer pain may be short-lived, or it may become chronic or persistent.  Even many years of being cancer-free, some cancer survivors continue to experience pain.

Ongoing cancer pain can impact multiple domains of the patient’s quality of life, including; physical, social and psychological well-being. People’s reactions to living with cancer pain vary.

Some people have described feeling overwhelmed by their pain:

  "How does pain make me feel? It makes me feel like a freak. It makes me feel very alone and frightened...What else to say? Like what am I going to do you know? Panicky, you know, like what am I gonna do? And it gets worse." (55 year-old woman)

(Gagliese et al., 2009)

On the other hand, some people have described accepting their pain as a way to maintain their quality of life:

You just have to accept [the pain]. If you don’t accept it, what are you going to do? Sit there and say, you know, “why did this happen to me?” You can hope for a miracle, but realistically, the chances are so, so, so small so you better say “okay let’s think about the rest of what I’ve got.” (73 year-old man)

(Gagliese et al., 2009)

There remain many unanswered questions about the development and experience of cancer pain across the adult lifespan.  The primary objective of the Cancer Pain Research Lab is to conduct research to better understand age-related patterns in cancer pain.