BACKGROUND: Despite an emphasis on pain management in palliative care, pain continues to be a common problem for individuals with advanced cancer. Many of those affected are older due to the disproportionate incidence of cancer in this age group. There remains little understanding of how older patients and their family caregivers perceive patients’ cancer-related pain, despite its significance for pain management in the home setting.OBJECTIVES: To explore and describe the cancer pain perceptions and experiences of older adults with advanced cancer and their family caregivers.METHODS: A qualitative descriptive approach was used to describe and interpret data collected from semistructured interviews with 18 patients (≥65 years of age) with advanced cancer receiving palliative care at home and their family caregivers.RESULTS: The main category ‘Experiencing cancer pain’ incorporated three themes. The theme ‘Feeling cancer pain’ included the sensory aspects of the pain, its origin and meanings attributed to the pain. A second theme, ‘Reacting to cancer pain’, included patients’ and family caregivers’ behavioural, cognitive (ie, attitudes, beliefs and control) and emotional responses to the pain. A third theme, ‘Living with cancer pain’ incorporated individual and social-relational changes that resulted from living with cancer pain.CONCLUSIONS: The findings provide an awareness of cancer pain experienced by older patients and their family caregivers within the wider context of ongoing relationships, increased patient morbidity and other losses common in the aged.