Improving the Treament of Cancer Related Pain
Pain is the primary reason people seek medical attention, accounting for over 20% of all doctor visits. Chronic pain affects ~116 million individuals in the U.S., at a cost of $635 billion per year.i Despite the existence of guidelines for cancer pain management, moderate to severe pain remains a major health care problem for patients with cancer. Undertreatment is a widespread problem affecting nearly half of cancer patients. The dose-limiting side effects of current pharmacotherapies, and controversies and stigmas associated with the use of opioid analgesics, compound the problem.
Patients with cancer-‐related pain represent a unique population given the impact that chemotherapy, radiation and analgesics can have on the peripheral and central nervous systems (e.g., neuropathic pain, effects on tumor growth and migration, and impacts on cognition and decision making). Misunderstanding about the experience of pain and its effects also has significant social and emotional ramifications for patients and their families. These challenges can be met in part through better training and education of healthcare professionals and student-trainees, as well as outreach to the patients and the communities they live in.
The University of New England (UNE) is well positioned to make an immediate and meaningful impact on early and continuing cancer pain education and awareness given its collective expertise and track record in pain research, interprofessional education and patient engagement in the medical/health decision‐making process. Funding of this proposal will develop interprofessional case studies, standardized patient simulations, and patient narratives that will be focused on improving patient/provider communication and cancer pain management and raising patient and community awareness of the problem.
The developed curricula will be a valuable resource in the education of our own medical and health professional students (60% of whom practice in the state of Maine), and will be made available for use at other colleges and universities in the United States and beyond. The curricula will also be adapted for continued medical education of health professionals through CME type events delivered at professional conferences as well as through online delivery. Another deliverable for this grant will be a series of presentations and workshops on this topic at a summer 2014 Interprofessional Health Conference hosted by the UNE.
Conference themes will be relevant to practitioners across health and health-related professions and will emphasize collaborative approaches to preventing and managing chronic pain, with a day devoted to cancer‐related pain. One additional deliverable will be resources that are made available to patients, families and community members that highlight strategies for better managing and coping with cancer‐related pain.