Dermatologic Cancer Pain Syndromes

  • Katerina SvigosEmail author
  • Viswanath Reddy Belum
  • Mario E. Lacouture


Pain and pruritus are common symptom that dermatologic patients experience. The skin is comprised of three layers interspersed with sensory receptors that specialize in detecting changes or disruptions to the skin. The body’s response to various irritations (e.g., inflammation), or iatrogenic introduced foreign bodies (e.g., needles), can affect the skin and be perceived by the brain as pain.

Common painful skin syndromes experienced by cancer patients include injection site reactions, postherpetic neuralgia, and palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia (hand-foot syndrome/hand-foot skin reaction). Injection site reactions include phlebitis (inflammation of the blood vessels) and extravasation (leakage of drug into the extravascular space). Postherpetic neuralgia is persistent nerve pain confined to a dermatome after an episode of herpes zoster. Palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia results in changes in sensation of the hands and feet, secondary to epithelial cell and capillary damage caused by chemotherapy. The location and quality of pain, and appearance of the skin on physical exam, can help distinguish each of these syndromes. It is important to recognize these conditions early and institute appropriate interventions, to minimize dose interruptions and reduce impairments in patients’ health-related quality of life.


Cancer Extravasation Hand-foot syndrome Hand-foot skin reaction Injection site Palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia Pain Phlebitis Postherpetic neuralgia Postherpetic neuralgia Dermatologic cancer pain 



Antigen-presenting cell


Dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase


Hand-foot syndrome


Hand-foot skin reaction


Herpes zoster


Major histocompatibility complex


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug


Postherpetic Neuralgia


Palmar-Plantar Erythrodysesthesia Syndrome


Thymidylate synthase




Varicella-zoster virus


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katerina Svigos
    • 1
    Email author
  • Viswanath Reddy Belum
    • 2
  • Mario E. Lacouture
    • 2
  1. 1.New York University School of MedicineNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of MedicineMemorial Sloan Kettering Cancer CenterNew YorkUSA

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