ANNAPOLIS, Md--"Of the 1 million people diagnosed with cancer each year, at least half will not receive adequate pain control," said June L. Dahl, PhD, professor of pharmacology, University of Wisconsin Medical School, and chair, Wisconsin Cancer Pain Initiative.
Dr. Dahl was the keynote speaker at a conference on cancer pain relief strategies sponsored by the Maryland Cancer Pain Initiative and the American Cancer Society. "Uncontrolled pain decreases the quality of patients' lives, leads to depression and anxiety, and may even adversely affect the course of the disease," she said.
All states except Alaska, Alabama, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming have cancer pain initiatives--volunteer efforts by health professionals who work in clinical care facilities, institutions of higher education, and government, often in cooperation with the American Cancer Society and other health organizations.
The two key elements of a state initiative are education and advocacy, specifically to help health professionals acquire and apply knowledge and skills to assess and treat cancer pain appropriately; educate patients and families about drug and nondrug therapies to relieve pain; and dispel fears about pain medications.
Nurses comprise the majority membership in state initiatives, Dr. Dahl said, but there are also significant numbers of physicians and pharmacists.
The groups receive grants from the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical industry to support their work. In addition, many initiative leaders contribute their services as part of their regular professional responsibilities.
Members of state initiatives make presentations at professional meetings; distribute information about cancer pain relief to the public, health professionals, and the media; and monitor laws and regulations that are now or might become barriers to cancer pain control.