WILMINGTON, Del--Nine leading health care professionals from the
United States' top cancer hospitals, research facilities, and
nonprofit organizations have joined together as members of the
National Cancer Pain Coalition (NCPC), with the goal of improving
chronic cancer pain treatment (see box).
The NCPC, supported by Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, is committed to
improving the management of chronic cancer pain by enhancing education
and communication between health professionals and cancer patients
concerning pain and its treatment.
Patients with cancer pain comprise the largest segment of the
moderate-to-severe chronic pain market. According to the American
Cancer Society, pain is a significant problem for 50% to 70% of
the nearly 10 million Americans who have a history of cancer.
The NCPC will address cancer pain management issues and develop
educational materials for the medical and oncology patient community.
The Coalition's goal is to ensure that no patient is undertreated
for their cancer pain. To accomplish this goal, the Coalition
will meet semiannually to discuss the current issues, trends,
and educational needs in pain management.
One of the first issues the group will address will be how to
bridge the communication gap that exists in many health professional/patient
relationships. Educational materials addressing this issue will
be available in 1997.
"I'd like to think the patients I treat receive effective
treatment for their pain. However, if a patient is not completely
open with me, I have no way of knowing if additional treatment
is required," says NCPC member Russell Portenoy, MD, Department
of Neurology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "The
NCPC is developing a national education program for patients,
their families, physicians, and other health professionals to
open the lines of communication and increase the understanding
and treatment of pain."
"Patients are often reluctant to discuss their pain with
their physicians," says NCPC member Diane Blum, executive
director, Cancer Care, Inc. "They may be fearful about becoming
addicted to pain drugs, or believe that they must hold off on
treatment until the pain is really severe. People tell us that
they worry that pain is a symptom of their disease progressing,
and are afraid to acknowledge it to the doctor." These and
other cancer pain myths are addressed in an NCPC handout.