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M. D. Anderson Faculty Members Contribute Expertise to Cancer Pain Treatment Guidelines

M. D. Anderson Faculty Members Contribute Expertise to Cancer Pain Treatment Guidelines
Institution’s pain research group offers innovative studies in pain management
M. D. Anderson News Release 04/03/01

Three faculty members at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center are major contributors to the new cancer pain treatment guidelines released today (April 3) by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and the American Cancer Society (ACS).

The NCCN/ACS Cancer Pain Treatment Guidelines for Patients give cancer patients access to information about pain treatment options offered at the nation’s leading cancer centers. Originally devised for cancer specialists by the NCCN, the guidelines are translated into easy-to-understand terms for the general public by the ACS.
“Undertreating pain is a significant public health problem in the cancer treatment process. With the release of these guidelines, cancer patients are offered a simplified, well-thought-out approach to basic cancer pain management,” said Dr. Charles Cleeland, director of the institution’s pain research group and one of the three M. D. Anderson faculty members who led development of these new guidelines.

“Every patient has the right to appropriate pain assessment and pain management.  The guidelines offer an effective tool for cancer patients to use in talking to their doctors and nurses about their pain and working together to find the best treatment,” he said.

According to Dr. Cleeland, who holds the institution’s endowed McCullough Professorship of Cancer Research, misperceptions about the likelihood of drug addiction and abuse of analgesics have led some cancer patients to avoid seeking appropriate pain control.

“Often, physicians are not willing to prescribe potent enough drugs to manage the pain of their patients, and in turn, patients are not willing to take strong medication due to fear of addiction.  For physicians, the guidelines specify at what level of pain severity certain drugs should be prescribed.  For patients, the guidelines should greatly reduce the fear of addiction and offer the reassurance that their pain due to cancer can, and should be, controlled,” said Dr. Cleeland.

Along with Dr. Cleeland, M .D. Anderson faculty members Drs. Nora Janjan, professor of radiation oncology, and Samuel Hassenbusch III, associate professor of neurosurgery, participated in developing the national guidelines.

The NNCN/ACS Cancer Pain Treatment Guidelines for Patients is one of a series developed by the NCCN/ACS partnership. Currently, the NCN/ACS patient guidelines series includes breast, prostate and colon and rectal cancers with future guidelines being developed for lung, ovarian and non-melanoma skin cancers, myeloma, nausea and vomiting and cancer-related fatigue. All guidelines are also available in Spanish.

The NCCN is a coalition of 19 prestigious cancer centers nationwide created in 1995, with M. D. Anderson as one of its founding members, to bring together knowledge and expertise of physicians at member centers and make this information available to the public. The American Cancer Society is a nationwide, community based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem.

The public may access the NCCN/ACS Cancer Pain Treatment Guidelines for Patients by calling askMDAnderson at 1-877-632-6789; the National Comprehensive Care Network (888-909-NCCN) or The American Cancer Society (800-ACS-2345). The guidelines are also available via the Internet at and
About M. D. Anderson’s Pain Research Group:

M. D. Anderson’s pain research group is one of the largest collaborative departments of its kind and is a leader in the field of cancer-related pain research.  Ongoing innovative clinical trials and research initiatives include:

Octophonic Sound Study:In conjunction with the Yamaha Corporation, the pain research group is studying the effects of octophonic sound to determine if certain sounds can decrease treatment-related distress in cancer patients. Chemotherapy and radiation patients enrolled in the M. D. Anderson study receive treatment once with and once without listening to a variety sounds, including classical music, sounds of a calm sea and nature noises. Following each treatment, the patients are asked to rate their level of pain.

Pain Education Relief in Minority Outpatients:Studies by the pain researchgroup have indicated that outpatients with cancer from underserved populations are at especially high risk for poor pain management. In an effort to educate underserved populations about pain and its management and to offer minority cancer patients the skills needed to obtain pain relief, the Pain Management Group is currently evaluating educational intervention for pain control in two clinical trials: pain management skills for minority prostate patients and pain management skills for minority breast cancer patients.

M. D. Anderson Symptom Inventory (MDASI):Developed by the pain research group in 1999 to assess the severity of multiple symptoms –– including pain, distress, nausea and shortness of breath –– and the impact of these symptoms on daily functioning, the MDASI offers cancer patients a numeric tool for measuring these symptoms. Using the hospital's sophisticated outbound calling system and the patients' home telephone, patients can receive automated calls to assess and triage their symptoms from home.

Collaborative Center in Supportive Cancer Care:In May 1996, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO) established the Collaborating Center for Supportive Cancer Care at M. D. Anderson. Guided by a multi-disciplinary team of M. D. Anderson experts in areas critical to the survival and quality of life of cancer patients, including symptom control and palliation, the control of infections, the management of bone metastases, rehabilitation, medical decision making, and pharmaco-economics, the center provides healthcare professionals from around the world with education, training and research opportunities related to the treatment of pain experienced by cancer patients.


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