Bedside chart may ease cancer patient's pain: study

Pain affects half of all people with cancer and an estimated 80 per cent of those with advanced cancer.

Patients suffering from cancer could ease their pain levels by using a simple pen and paper bedside chart, a study suggests.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh in the UK found that the chart 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.

The new approach, described in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, reduces pain levels compared with conventional care.

Pain affects half of all people with cancer and an estimated 80 per cent of those with advanced cancer, causing both physical and emotional impact on patients.

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 - prompt doctors to review medications and side effects and monitor pain more closely.

The trial looked at pain levels in almost 2,000 cancer patients over five days, following admission to regional cancer centres.

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.

Importantly, use of the chart was not linked to higher medicine doses, researchers said.

The system is a simple way to put pain management at the forefront of routine care, however, the researchers caution that more studies are needed to understand how it could work longer term.

"These exciting findings show the important benefits of influencing doctors' behaviours, rather than looking for more complex and expensive interventions," said Professor Marie Fallon from the University of Edinburgh.

"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 Fallon.

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