Search in All Title Contents

Madrid, 11 October 2023. - According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), pain is a disagreeable sensory and emotional experience associated with a real or potential injury3. 32% of the Spanish adult population suffer some type of pain, although only 27% are diagnosed, largely people between the ages of 45 and 541. There are various types of pain, among which acute and chronic pain stand out. In contrast to acute pain, which has a fixed duration, chronic pain persists for more than 3-6 months and constitutes an illness in itself2. The latter can have physical as well as psychological and emotional consequences. In fact, as Fátima Castaño, from the Psycho-oncology Department at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid, explained, people with chronic pain often suffer high levels of psychopathology, related anxiety issues and mood disorders.     .

“Pain is a completely subjective experience; this means there are a number of psychological factors such as tension, anxiety, and the anticipation of pain or the fear of suffering it that can affect the experience of pain. Sometimes these may increase it, modulate it or even diminish it”, the expert explained.  

For this reason, the psycho-oncologist stressed the importance of psychology and a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary approach to the treatment of patients with chronic pain, such as those affected by a tumour, as the proper management of this tension and anxiety can help the patient to live with the condition. From a medical point of view, as Dr. Sara Arango, specialist at the MD Anderson Madrid Pain Unit, added “working together with other specialists is crucial when selecting the most appropriate treatment for the patient with chronic pain”.  According to the expert, the clearest example is the treatment of the cancer patient who, apart from dealing with the disease itself, may experience painful side effects and psychological consequences from the oncological procedures. 

The purpose of any treatment for chronic pain is to enhance the quality of life of the patient

Both professionals agree that the treatments for relieving pain are not always curative, but are intended to guarantee the best possible quality of life for the patient. In fact, some of their patients manage to normalise their pain, characterise it and learn to live with it. It is, however, a task that requires time, patience and considerable personal effort.   

According to Doctor Arango, living with and learning to endure pain does not mean living badly, but it is “a struggle that depends on the attitude of the patients. I try to encourage them as much as possible: to leave the house, go for walks and, above all, to enjoy their social life if they can, as getting around helps to focus the mind on more positive and gratifying sensations”.  For her part, from a psychologist’s point of view, the MD Anderson Madrid Psycho-oncologist added, “those patients that manage to accustom themselves to their therapy process and cope with associated pain, and sometimes even to reduce the perceived intensity, are more able to carry on with many of their daily activities”.


The role of the cancer patient’s family and friends in pain management    

With any disease and, above all, in patients who have or have gone through cancer, their safety net, whether it be family, partners, friends or carers, plays a vital role both in the treatment and the confrontation of pain. In many cases, cancer patients end up dealing with persistent pain as a side effect of surgery and treatment or the tumour itself. With this in mind, Doctor Sara Arango states that the partner, family member or carer is no longer a passive figure who remains silent during the medical appointment, but someone who can and should participate in the entire illness process.    

You should not just look at the patient, but also at the person who comes with them. As Illnesses can affect not just the patients themselves, but also those around them. Often the patient can be nervous, in pain, feel a little lost, and in these instances the person who accompanies them can be invaluable to us”, explained the expert. Meanwhile Doctor Castaño added that, in addition to active help and support, the patient’s close circle also need to provide empathy and being better informed about the disease has a positive impact on approaching and above all managing the pain. Understanding the patient’s symptoms and experience of pain is invaluable, as when those close to them learn to recognise and understand the pain they will avoid mistakes like demanding or forcing the patient to do things, or alternatively becoming over protective”, concluded the specialist.


  1. Spanish Neurology Society -  32% of the adult population suffers some type of pain
  2. – Classification of pain
  3. Raja SN, Carr DB, Cohen M, Finnerup NB, Flor H, Gibson S, et al. The revised International Association for the Study of Pain definition of pain. Pain. 2020; 161(9):1976-1982. Available on: