By Kay Quinn Healthbeat Reporter

St. Louis (KSDK) - So many things can cause chronic pain, but when should you worry its cancer?

In this week's 8 Ways to Prevent Cancer segment, we break down what pain will likely go away on its own, and when you should ask your doctor to take a closer look.

"Obviously, most pain is not related to cancer," said Dr. Nancy Bartlett, an oncologist who specializes in lymphoma at Siteman Cancer Center.

But with that said, Dr. Nancy Bartlett says there is a way to tell a difference.

Do you have arthritis or a past injury?

"If somebody's had pain going on for years, that are very unlikely to be cancer pain," said Dr. Bartlett. "That would have probably come to attention before that."

So, not only is the history of your pain important, but so is the location. Cancer pain tends to concentrate in one area.

"Someone who comes in and says I ache all over, my muscles hurt that's unlikely to be cancer pain," said Dr. Bartlett.

The time of day your pain is worst can also help you decide whether you should worry that it might be cancer.

"Often the pain is worse in the morning or at night with cancer pain, as opposed to patients who have pain related to arthritis or tension headaches," said Dr Bartlett. "Those things are worse during the day or get worse as the day progresses and then they get better when the patient rests.

When it's cancer pain, chances are it doesn't get better if you rest or lie still.

If it lingers more than two weeks, it's time to see the doctor.

"If you have worsening headaches or worsening abdominal pain without any other explanation over a relatively short period of time, I think you just need to be persistent," said Dr. Bartlett.

Our 8 Ways reports are in partnership with the Siteman Cancer Center.

Send us your questions about cancer prevention.

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