Educating Patients Can Lessen Cancer Pain
Oliver and her colleagues recruited 67 cancer patients between the ages of 18 and 75 who were experiencing moderate pain. Half were assigned to receive standardized instructions on controlling pain. The other half were given a 20-minute individualized education and coaching session designed to dispel their personal misconceptions about treatment, increase knowledge of pain self-management, and rehearse an individual patient-physician dialogue about pain control.
After two weeks, the researchers collected information from each patient on average pain, functional impairment due to pain, pain frequency, and pain-related knowledge. Those patients who were tutored in pain control reported having significantly less average pain than the other group. They also tended to have improved functioning, less pain frequency, and slightly more pain knowledge.
"I think it is about empowerment through education," says Oliver. "It is sort of intangible, but what we gave people is a sense of control or understanding about pain and how to control it."
"I think the results are impressive in that they show that brief educational intervention can help patients to receive better pain management," says Anderson. "[Pain] is always treatable. Studies have estimated 90-95% of pain problems can be adequately treated with analgesic. For that small percentage of patients who don't get good relief, there are other alternatives available: implanted pumps or different kinds of surgery. Pain cannot always be totally eliminated, but typically it can be reduced to mild levels where patients can function and have a good quality of life."
Oliver's advice to cancer patients is to take an active role and not to be shy. "However you can, get educated and empowered about controlling pain," she says. "Speak up and get information."