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Most Cancer Pain Is Experienced at the Patient’s Home

Most Cancer Pain Is Experienced at the Patient’s Home

NEW YORK—The importance of pain management in the treatment of cancer is
well understood now. But a corollary—that most of that pain is experienced at
home—has not been as well understood, says Nessa Coyle, RN, MS, director of
supportive care programs, Pain and Palliative Care Service, Memorial
Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

One third to two thirds of cancer patients will experience pain, and being
able to manage their pain at home is of the utmost importance, Ms. Coyle said
during a Cancer Care, Inc. teleconference.

The fears and misconceptions of patients and their families are the
principal barriers to good pain management at home, she said. Patients are
afraid that talking to a doctor about pain will distract the doctor from
treating the cancer. They are afraid that taking pain medication early on in
the course of a disease will mean there will be nothing left for later. They
are afraid of becoming addicted and afraid that the pain medications will cause
side effects.

"When people have not had their pain well controlled," Ms. Coyle said,
"usually, the physician hasn’t understood because the patient hasn’t brought it
up."

Patients need to be their own advocates, she said. They need to tell their
health care professionals about their pain, and talk about it in concrete
language the physician or nurse will understand.

‘This is Where My Pain Is’

She suggested that patients provide the following types of information:
"This is where my pain is. This is my pain at its worst [on a 0 to 10 scale].
This is my pain at its best. This is my pain most of the time. This is how the
pain interferes with my quality of life. This is the medication I’m on. It
takes away half of my pain or all of my pain for 4 hours, but you gave me
medication for every 6 hours."

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