Pain management in cancer care encompasses all the actions taken to keep people with cancer as free of pain as possible. It includes pharmacological, psychological, and spiritual approaches to prevent, reduce, or stop pain sensations.
It is estimated that more than 800,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States, and 430,000 cancer victims will die. Though recent figures are hopeful and suggest a decline in both the incidence of cancer and the number of people who die from it, studies have consistently shown that at least 70% of cancer patients in the advanced stage of the disease will experience significant pain. Pain is a localized sensation ranging from mild discomfort to an unbearable, excruciating experience. It is, in its origins, a protective mechanism, designed to alert the brain to injury or disease conditions. Unfortunately, when the cause of the pain is known, such as in diagnosed cancer, and treatment is initiated, pain can often continue.
Once the message of cancer has been received and interpreted by the brain, further pain can be counter-productive. Pain can have a negative impact on a person's quality of life, causing depression and impeding recovery. Unrelieved pain can become a syndrome in its own right and cause a downward spiral in a person's health and outlook. Proper pain management facilitates recovery, prevents additional health complications, and improves an individual's quality of life.
Several independent studies of the relief of pain have shown that pain is often under-treated by the medical profession. For this reason, in the spring and summer of 2000, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health-care Organizations (JCAHO) and the American Pain Society (APS) developed standards for proper pain management.
Julia Barrett, Joan Schonbeck R.N., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,