Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Chronic Pain in Breast Cancer Patients

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Andra Smith, Ph.D.
Full Professor, School of Psychology
University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON

Andra Smith, Ph.D. Full Professor, School of Psychology University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON
Dr. Smith

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?
Response: The process of going through breast cancer treatment is challenging enough on its own and can continue to impact cancer survivors long after treatment ends. One of the common side effects of breast cancer treatment is the development of chronic neuropathic pain (CNP), which for many women is debilitating and difficult to manage. Medications are not always effective and quality of life, cognitive abilities, and overall well-being can be reduced due to this pain. Knowing personally and from previous research how effective mindfulness can be for well-being, it made sense to introduce a mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR) to these women going through chronic neuropathic pain due to breast cancer treatment. Mindfulness has occasionally been dismissed as a ‘fad’ so it was important to investigate the impact of an MBSR program with objective measures that could provide empirical evidence of its effects within this population. Dr. Poulin had the clinical resources and participants for the study while Dr. Smith had the imaging expertise. Together we performed a brain imaging (MRI/fMRI) study with women more than a year following treatment for breast cancer, suffering from chronic neuropathic pain. We scanned them all before and after either an MBSR program or usual care, assessing brain health, resting-state brain activity, and neurophysiological responses to emotional/pain-related words (Emotional Stroop task).    

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Off-Label Gabapentinoid Prescriptions for Cancer Pain Relief Double

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Alex Fauer, RN, OCN®
Ph.D. Candidate
University of Michigan School of Nursing

PainRelief.com Interview with: Alex Fauer, RN, OCN® Ph.D. Candidate University of Michigan School of Nursing

PainRelief.com:  What are the main findings?

Response: Our primary finding of the paper is that the age-, sex-, and US region-adjusted percentage of adults who used a gabapentinoid increased from 2.34% to 5.60% from 2005 to 2015. The total number of gabapentinoid prescriptions  filled  among  US  adults diagnosed with  cancer was  approximately  1.19  million in 2005, but increased to 3.52 million in 2015.

We also found that adults aged 18-44 were the highest users of gabapentinoids.

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Acupuncture Provided Pain Relief From Cancer and Related Symptoms

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Jai N. Patel, PharmD, BCOP
Chief, Pharmacology Research
Associate Professor, Division of Hematology/Oncology
Department of Cancer Pharmacology
Levine Cancer Institute
Charlotte, NC 28204 

PainRelief.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Pain is one of the most prevalent and burdensome symptoms affecting patients with cancer. Cancer-related pain is most commonly treated with opioid analgesics; however, nearly two-thirds of patients have inadequate pain relief and/or experience opioid-related side effects.

Furthermore, the fear of opioid abuse/addiction and toxicity deters some from prescribing opioids and reduces patient compliance. Thus, nonpharmacologic interventions such as acupuncture may be safer approaches to cancer-related pain.  Randomized controlled trials suggest acupuncture reduces chronic neuropathic and postoperative pain in patients with cancer. It is unknown whether any patient characteristics predict post-acupuncture pain response.

We assessed acupuncture’s effectiveness for cancer-related pain, identified patient characteristics associated with pain response, and determined its effect on other concurrent cancer-related symptoms in palliative medicine outpatients. We identified significant benefits in pain scores immediately after the first treatment and across multiple treatments. Significant pain reduction was associated with higher baseline pain and more advanced disease stage.

We also identified significant changes in anxiety, depression, drowsiness, dyspnea, fatigue, nausea and well-being. Improvements in fatigue and depression also correlated with significant pain reduction after acupuncture.  Continue reading