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Cancer Doctors Still Not Great With Patients' Pain
Date:11/17/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Oncologists think they are good at managing cancer patients' pain, but a new survey shows otherwise.

In response to two hypothetical vignettes describing a cancer patient who was suffering from pain, the majority of oncologists offered up a treatment plan that pain specialists would consider "unacceptable."

"There are serious deficiencies in oncologists' knowledge of cancer pain management," said study author Brenda Breuer, director of epidemiologic research in the department of pain medicine and palliative care at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

The study appears in the Nov. 14 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Depending on the type of cancer and how advanced it is, anywhere from 14 percent to 100 percent of cancer patients experience pain, according to background information in the study.

In recent years, there's been a growing understanding among cancer experts about the importance of both properly assessing and treating pain, and better techniques for doing so, said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.

Despite talk about a greater understanding of the importance of treating pain, oncologists' attitudes toward pain management have "demonstrated disturbingly little progress" since 1990, when a similar survey was conducted, according to an accompanying journal editorial.

"The entire issue of pain management for patients with cancer has been a priority concern for many experts and organizations, particularly over the past several years," Lichtenfeld said. "We have begun to recognize that we are not managing pain adequately and this report and editorial go directly to the heart of the matter. Doctors think they are managing pain properly, but the results of the report suggest otherwise."

Under-treating pain can occur for multiple reaso
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