01 Oct Study Shows Cancer Patients Taking Fewer Opioid Medications
A recently released study designed to measure the frequency of opioid prescriptions among cancer patients and others suffering from chronic pain shows very promising results. It would appear as though patients are taking fewer opioid medications for pain.
Opioid medications do have a legitimate place in Western medicine. Sometimes they are the only thing that offers patients a modicum of pain relief. But opioids are not the only choice – especially for cancer pain. Here at Lone Star Pain Medicine, we offer a variety of alternatives including epidurals, nerve blocks, radiofrequency neurotomy, and kyphoplasty.
More About the Study
The previously mentioned study, published in the PLOS One journal, analyzed patient data from both cancer patients and patients suffering from non-cancer chronic pain for at least one year between 2012 and 2019. Researchers looked at opioid frequency as well as other therapies.
The number of cancer patients taking opioid medications decreased over the study period from 86% to 78.7%. Among the patients with non-cancer pain, the opioid rate fell from 49.7% to 30.5%. That’s good, but there is more.
The number of cancer patients taking non-opioid pain medications increased from 74.4% to 78.8%. The non-opioid rate among non-cancer pain patients did not show statistical change across the study period.
We can clearly see from study results that the prevalence of opioid pain medications among both groups of patients decreased significantly over the eight years of study data. That is remarkable. It is also likely the result of so much attention being given to the over-prescribing of opioid medications.
Treating Cancer Pain Is Unique
As pain doctors, we are especially intrigued by the data relating to cancer patients. Cancer pain is somewhat unique in that its cause is not strictly limited to the disease itself. Cancer treatments also cause pain. In some cases, treatment-related pain is more severe than the pain of the disease.
Treatment-related pain poses an extra challenge in that it can encourage cancer patients to skip treatments. Missing treatments is obviously something doctors want to avoid as much as possible. So it’s imperative that pain be managed as effectively as it can be.
There are times when opioid pain medications are the best way to do that. But opioids are not the be-all and end-all. They do not always work as effectively as they should, patients may complain of feeling worse when taking them, and there is always the risk of addiction.
Alternative Treatments Are Available
As the study itself showed, there are alternative treatments. Non-opioid pain medications are one option. There are many others, including the options we offer at Lone Star. The key to figuring it out is sitting down with a pain specialist who can help the patient understand their pain and what is causing it.
Are you a cancer patient struggling with chronic pain? If so, the pain specialists here in our Weatherford, TX clinic might be able to help. We encourage you to pay a visit as soon as is practical.
We will sit down and talk with you on the level. We will look to get to know you and your treatment goals. Most importantly, we will present you with all your options and help you figure out the best and most practical way to relieve the pain you are experiencing.
In the meantime, we think it is good news that cancer patients are taking fewer opioid medications. Ditto for non-cancer chronic pain patients. The more we can veer away from unnecessary opioid prescriptions, the faster we will put an end to the ongoing opioid crisis still plaguing our country.