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Patients suffering from cancer can ease the level of their pain by using a simple pen and paper bedside chart, a new study suggests.
Pain affects half of the people suffering from cancer and an estimated 80 per cent of those with advanced cancer, causing both physical and emotional impact on patients, the researcher said.
“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,” said co-author of the study Marie Fallon, Professor at the University of Edinburgh in the UK.
For the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers worked with doctors to develop the Edinburgh Pain Assessment and management Tool (EPAT) — a pen and paper chart which medical staff use to regularly record pain levels in a simple traffic light system.
Amber or red pain levels — indicating moderate or severe pain — prompts doctors to review medications and side effects and monitor pain more closely, the researcher said.
The trial looked at pain levels in almost 2,000 cancer patients over five days, following admission to regional cancer centres.
The researchers found that patients whose care included use of the chart reported less pain during this time as compared with patients with standard care, who did not show an improvement.
Importantly, use of the chart was not linked to higher medicine doses, the researchers mentioned.
The researchers suggest that it works by encouraging doctors to ask the right questions and reflect on pain medications and side effects more frequently, before patients reach a crisis point.
“These exciting findings show the important benefits of influencing doctor’s behaviours, rather than looking for more complex and expensive interventions,” Fallon said.