Under- Or Overtreatment Of Pain In The Patient With Cancer: How To Achieve Proper Balance
Achieving balance in the appropriate use of opioids for the treatment of cancer pain is complex. The definition of “balance” is continually being modified. Palliative care professionals, pain specialists, and oncologists have long been advocating for the aggressive management of pain for patients with advanced cancer. Some progress has been made in this arena but barriers persist. Fear of addiction by patients, family members, and oncology professionals presents a serious obstacle to the provision of adequate pain control. This is further complicated by societal factors that receive extensive media coverage, such as diversion of prescribed opioids for recreational use and increasing deaths as a result of this inappropriate use of prescription opioids. This growing concern has led to more opioid regulation, which increases obstacles to pain management in this population. Another evolving concern is whether the long-term use of opioids is safe and effective. Data from the chronic nonmalignant pain literature suggest that toxicities may result and misuse has been underestimated, yet little information is available in the cancer population. These issues lead to serious questions regarding how balance might be successfully achieved for patients in an oncology setting. Can pain relief be provided while reducing negative consequences of treatment? Which patient should be prescribed what medications, in what situations, for what kind of pain, and who should be managing the pain?