The most common complaint patients make to doctors involves pain. VCU Massey Cancer Center seeks to improve the quality of patients’ lives by helping to manage their pain.
“Symptom management” is the term given to the assessment and management of distressing physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, depression, fatigue and treatment side effects. Until recently, too many cancer patients received inadequate treatment for their symptoms. Fortunately, there have been many advances in the role of symptom management as an important element in the process of treating cancer. Some of the best thinking originates here at Massey.
At Massey, our clinicians routinely use brief assessment tools to ask patients about pain, depression and fatigue, and to initiate evidence-based treatments. These clinical practices grow out of our firm belief that fear of cancer and its consequences must be ameliorated. Our goal is for all patients with cancer to have optimal symptom control from diagnosis throughout the course of illness and survivorship.
“Pain is a common, highly subjective symptom,” notes pain expert Leanne Yanni, M.D. “Pain can be caused by the cancer itself or cancer-related treatments, and sometimes is hard to control. At Massey, addressing a patient’s pain is part of the overall treatment process; it is why specialists in pain management are part of our multidisciplinary approach.”
She adds, “The thing about pain is that I can’t measure it with a blood or imaging test. Pain is personal and we must depend on the patient to tell us where it is, what it feels like and how it is affecting them. Good communication is essential to finding the cause of pain and tailoring the treatment.”
Massey is committed to enhancing patient education and fostering open communication. The Center offers a wide range of medication management options. It also offers other techniques, such as physical or occupational therapy and psychological and spiritual support. And the research for new and better ways to manage pain continues.