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Cancer Pain Can Be Treated: New Patient Guidelines Help Patients And Physicians Discuss Options

For the first time ever, treatment guidelines used by oncology professionals to manage cancer pain have been translated into specific, reliable and easy-to-understand language for patients and their families. Today, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) announced the availability of their first supportive care patient guidelines, Cancer Pain Treatment Guidelines for Patients. The cancer pain guidelines are based on the review of published research on cancer pain by an interdisciplinary panel of experts from the 19 member institutions of the NCCN including Fox Chase Cancer Center, a founding member of the Network.

The treatment options are presented as flow charts, which were developed by oncologists from different disciplines. The decision trees include the assessment of cancer-related pain, initial treatment for pain and subsequent treatment. The guidelines illustrate several appropriate options for care based on the results of scientific evidence, clinical experience, medical judgement and a patient's personal preference. The booklet also explains what pain is, its causes, obstacles to cancer pain relief, pain assessment tools and offers patient and family education.

"The ACS/NCCN patient guidelines empower patients and their family by helping them ask the right questions, understand their treatment options, and participate fully in their care," said John Welch, M.D., president of the American Cancer Society, Pennsylvania Division. "With these guidelines at their fingertips, patients and their families can follow the same guidelines that their doctors are using." Pain can affect a patient in many ways. It can cause a reduction in activity, prevent sleep, and inhibit eating. Pain can also make a patient feel afraid and depressed. About one-third of the cancer patients in the U.S. suffer from significant pain. More than two-thirds of patients with advanced cancer have pain.

"Not all patients realize that there are options in managing side effects of cancer and its treatment including pain," said Michael Levy, M.D., Ph.D., vice-chairman of the Medical Oncology Department at Fox Chase Cancer Center and director of its Supportive Oncology Program.

"Many times, patients believe pain is simply something they have to live with and not question. That's not so. We hope that these guideline will encourage patients and their families to talk to their nurse or physician right away about relieving pain before it becomes severe."

The NCCN/ACS Cancer Pain Treatment Guidelines for Patients is one of a series developed by the NCCN/ACS partnership. NCCN and ACS plan to provide guidelines in this format for the 10 most common cancers, with lung cancer, bladder cancer, ovarian cancer and non-melanoma skin cancer scheduled for release in the next year. Treatment guidelines for patients have also been written for breast, prostate, and colon cancer. The pain management guidelines will be available in Spanish later this month.

To order a free copy of NCCN/ACS Cancer Pain Treatment Guidelines for Patients or any of the other NCCN patient guidelines, contact the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (1-888-909-NCCN) or the American Cancer Society (1-800-ACS-2345). The ACS also has Spanish speaking cancer information specialists who can respond to cancer related inquiries. You may also visit their web sites at or Requests by email may be made to

Founded in 1995, the NCCN is dedicated to advancing the missions of its member institutions in education, research and patient care. As part of its mission, the NCCN serves as the most authoritative source of cancer care information for health professionals based upon the expertise and input of its world-renowned clinicians. The American Cancer Society is the nationwide, community based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer through research, education, advocacy and service. Fox Chase Cancer Center, one of the nation's first comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute in 1974, conducts basic and clinical research; programs of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach. For more information about Fox Chase activities, visit the Center's web site at or call 1-888-FOX CHASE.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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