Illegal drug use causes painful complications for oncology patients

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that eight percent of people ages 12 and older have used illicit drugs within the past month. Because drug use is surprisingly common within our society, those who need prescription medicine to treat pain often have a hard time obtaining it. For oncology patients, proper pain management is essential for their quality of life and continuation of care. In an attempt to close the growing gap in cancer pain management, Pam Kedziera, RN, BSN, OCN clinic manager of the Pain Management Center at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pa., offers expert solutions on how to rid disparities and highlights the valuable role of the oncology nurse in this process.

"We know between six to ten percent of the general population become addicted so naturally some oncology patients will come to us with this problem," said Kedziera. "Misconceptions and stereotypes have forced some clinicians to feel uncomfortable prescribing medication for the fear that it will be misused or wind up in the wrong hands. The oncology nurse can serve as a point person for both the suffering patient and the attending physician. We need to take care of all patients with pain. We should not deny comfort for the majority because we fear we might unknowingly treat someone with an addiction problem."

Oncology patients with current or past drug abuse present an intricate set of physical and psychosocial issues that can complicate their cancer treatment and pain symptom management. Though, these patients still have a right to pain control, Kedziera said. "Patients have a right to a better quality of life, regardless of their current or past history," continued Kedziera. "Our responsibility as nurses is to provide the individual patient will the best care possible. There are ways to safely manage their pain. Good pain management equals good cancer care."

A nurse educated in pain management

Contact: Colleen Kirsch
Fox Chase Cancer Center

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