Migraines & Cancer

Summary: While migraines are not a direct cause of cancer, they can be something people who have brain cancer have reported, along with those cancer patients going through treatment as a common side effect. Here you can read about migraines and how they affect brain cancer and cancer patients alike.

While migraines are not a direct cause of cancer, they can be something people who have brain cancer have reported, along with those cancer patients going through treatment as a common side effect.

Those migraines and headaches that are related to cancer often cause pain on one or both sides of the head. This pain can be limited to one area or encompass the entire skull. Many report that their head feels like it is “in a vice,” and others report the, “dull, piercing or throbbing” ache. The brain itself has no pain receptors, but headaches in the brain can be felt from the pressure building on the pain-sensitive blood vessels and nerves, or by the growth or tumor that may be causing pressure to the skull.

Headaches can be a side effect of many different things, from common, benign issues like stress, to spinal cord tumors, other cancers, and other types of tumors that can grow throughout the body.

Headaches associated with brain tumors include those that:

  • Develop in the morning but improve as the day goes on
  • Are accompanied by vomiting
  • Feel like a constant ache, but do not develop into a migraine
  • May throb, depending on where the tumor is located
  • Get worse with physical activity or changes in body position

In certain of these cases, not even over-the-counter pain relievers can help. Some of these medications can cause a “rebound headache,” where the medication no longer works for the patient and wears of presenting withdrawal symptoms. By taking low-dose or over-the-counter pain medication for long periods of time can result in headaches that never seem to go away.

Cancer patients may experience headaches for a variety of reasons, including side effects directly related to medication taken to prevent bone loss during cancer treatment, and the treatment itself: such as chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and targeted therapy. With cancer patients, it depends on where the cancer is as to how severe the migraine or headache will be. Many patients with head or neck cancer report severe headaches because their pain is always near their head.

Other Therapies used to Holistically treat Headaches & Migraines

If you do not like the aspects of taking more medications to combat these migraine and headache problems, consider one of these more holistic therapies.

  • Chiropractic care. Headaches are often caused by musculoskeletal problems due to joint stiffness, especially in the neck. Headaches are one of the most common complaints chiropractors are sought to help correct and, in some cases, basic chiropractic adjustments may help to ease the problem. Those experienced chiropractors trained in cancer care can further help to alleviate the pain felt by those cancer patients. Chiropractic procedures are gentle and can range from low force to non-force techniques.
  • Mind & Body Support. Mind and body therapists help patients manage headache and migraine pain by teaching and implementing various wellness practices like guided imagery for distraction and relaxation and breathing techniques. These therapists teach patients how to focus on the positive aspects of life and focused techniques to allow more comfort.
  • Pain Management. For those patients who suffer from headaches and migraines, pain management specialists may help them to regain and reclaim their quality of life. There are many options to be offered in a pain management clinic, which your doctor will discuss with you.

The important thing to remember is that if you are experiencing constant or continuous pain, you should discuss this with your doctor as soon as possible. There are many options for treating migraine, headache and body pain when dealing with cancer or other medical issues. Listen to your body and check into new symptoms, or those that remain for longer than two weeks.

Resources Used:

Reclaiming Intimacy

Cancer Center dot com

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