Nearly two decades after federal guidelines called for more aggressive treatment of pain associated with cancer, millions of Americans with the disease still suffer unnecessarily because their pain is not being managed adequately, according to a new study.
The study, led by researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, found that a third of cancer patients and survivors have untreated or undertreated pain, an improvement from 18 years ago but still far short.
The study, which was published this week, is the largest-ever evaluation of the treatment of pain in cancer patients and survivors in an outpatient setting.
The new study did not investigate why cancer patients' pain is still not adequately treated. Common reasons include patients' fear of narcotics and their lack of understanding of non-narcotic pain treatment. Some doctors don't understand the extent of some patients' pain.
The study enrolled more than 3,000 people with invasive breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer and at risk for pain at 38 institutions across the country. They included patients in active treatment and survivors seeing doctors for follow-up appointments. Most were being treated by oncologists, not pain specialists.
The researchers found that significant pain was an issue in two-thirds of patients and that 67% of them were receiving adequate treatment. Twenty percent of those reporting severe pain were not receiving any pain treatment, and 13% were receiving ineffective pain treatment.
The study included patients whose pain was caused by their cancer, by the treatment for their cancer or by illnesses they brought to their cancer care.
The study shows how complicated pain management and pain management education can be in cancer patients. For an evaluation and a customized, non narcotic pain treatment plan, contact Franklin Pain Wellness Center.