International and national experts debate ‘Controversies in Cancer Pain’ at Cairns symposium

By: The Royal Australian college of Physicians  19-Aug-2005

A symposium being held in Cairns on 18 and 19 August is looking at controversies in cancer pain including issues such as morphine use, cost of care, euthanasia, addiction and cancer pain relief as a human right. The symposium is being hosted by the RACP Chapter of Palliative Medicine and is an official satellite meeting of the 11th IASP World Congress on Pain. “Pain is the second most prevalent symptom in palliative care, and for the majority of patients it is the most distressing symptom. It is well documented that pain is often under-diagnosed and under-treated. We need all health professionals to recognize that treatment of a patient’s pain is essential for enhancing their quality of life,” Professor Michael Ashby, Chair of RACP Chapter of Palliative Medicine said. The demands in the field of palliative care are likely to grow, as the proportion of patients aged 65 years and older rapidly increases. Along with increasing demand for cancer pain management, comes controversies and debate on how to best treat and manage patients suffering from cancer related pain. “The symposium will look at controversies in treating patients suffering from cancer pain and will pose questions such as is morphine is still the best drug, if the best way to give medication is orally and if cancer pain relief can be considered a form of euthanasia.” Addiction is one of the issues that the symposium is looking at as addiction is a greatly feared occasional consequence of opioid treatment, and one that is more likely to arise during chronic than short-term treatment. As cancer survivals improve, addiction and increased tolerance to medication can interfere with the success of opioid pain treatment. “For most cancer patients, pain relief can be achieved at low cost but if drugs are ineffective or not tolerated it can become very expensive. One of sessions is looking at this situation in America where the cost of pain relief is a major problem for patients on limited incomes and inadequate insurance coverage for medications,” Prof Ashby said.


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