A study recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncologyhas discovered that cancer patients benefit from using a bedside chart for cancer pain management. Pain affects half of all cancer patients and an estimated 80% of those with advanced cancer.
First researchers worked with doctors to develop the Edinburgh Pain Assessment and management Tool, a pen and paper chart which medical staff use to record pain levels in a traffic light system. Amber or red pain levels indicate moderate or severe pain prompting doctors to review medications and side effects.
Second the trial investigated pain levels in approximately 2000 cancer patients over 5 days following admission to regional cancer centers. Patients whose care included use of the chart reported less pain during this time compared with patients with standard care who did not show an improvement.
The use of the chart was not linked to high medicine doses suggesting that it works by encouraging doctors to ask the right questions and review medication and side effects more frequently. The researchers suggest more studies are needed to understand how it could work in the longer term.
Marie Fallon (University of Edinburgh, UK) commented: “These exciting findings show the important benefits of influencing doctors’ behaviors, rather than looking for more complex and expensive interventions. These findings are a positive step towards reducing the burden of pain for patients and making them as comfortable as possible at all stages of cancer.”
Martin Ledwick (Cancer Research UK, London) concluded: “In most cases it should be possible for cancer pain to be controlled if it is assessed and managed effectively. Any work that encourages medical teams to assess and monitor pain more carefully to help this happen has to be a good thing for patients.”