Calcitonin is a hormone that is used to decrease bone destruction
caused by cancer that has spread (metastatic cancer). It also has some direct
pain-relieving actions. It is given as a shot or as a nasal spray.
Calcitonin is sometimes used for bone pain or nerve pain caused by
Calcitonin may help relieve some types of nerve pain, including
phantom pain.1 Phantom pain is a feeling of pain or
other uncomfortable sensations in body parts that are no longer there, such as
after an amputation. Although the limb is gone, the nerve endings at the site
of the amputation continue to send pain signals to the brain that make the
brain think the limb is still there. Women who have had a breast removed
because of breast cancer may also feel phantom pain.
Calcitonin has also been used to help relieve bone pain caused by
metastatic cancer. Some people may get relief. But the research done so far
does not prove that calcitonin works for bone pain.2
The benefits of calcitonin may take many weeks to notice, and they often go
away soon after the medicine is stopped.
Side effects of calcitonin are not common but can include:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference
is not available in all systems.)
The benefits of calcitonin usually go away soon after you stop
Women who use this medicine during pregnancy have a slightly higher chance of having a baby with birth defects. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you and your doctor must weigh the risks of using this medicine against the risks of not treating your condition.
Injections of calcitonin must be taken daily or at least several
times a week. You or a family member usually will learn how to give the shot
properly. It is important not to give the shot in the same place twice in a
row, because this could damage your muscle tissue.
Calcitonin as a nasal spray must be used several times a
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Foley KM, Abernathy A (2008). Management of cancer pain. In VT DeVita Jr et al., eds., DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg's Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology, 8th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2757–2790. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
National Cancer Institute (2013). Pain PDQ – Health Professional Version. Available online: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/pain/HealthProfessional.
October 31, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& Michael Seth Rabin, MD - Medical Oncology
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