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Ann Oncol. 1999;10 Suppl 4:265-8.

Pain management of pancreatic cancer.

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1
Department of Surgery, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway.

Abstract

Quality of life is receiving increasing attention as a criterion for the assessment of treatment, not least for surgery, in pancreatic cancer. In exocrine pancreatic cancer there are three main symptoms that must be dealt with: pain, loss of weight and jaundice. All of them seriously impair quality of life, but most often pain is the most feared by the patients. Despite this, the intensity and the quality of the pain is all too often only scantly described. In 85 consecutive patients with newly diagnosed pancreatic cancer we have prospectively registered the quality and quantity of their pain and correlated it to tumor and patient characteristics. It was found that about one fourth of the patients were totally pain free and half of all suffered a pain described by two or less on a Visual Analogue Scale. Only one in ten had severe pain. Although more and more patients were treated with morphine, it was still about one third of all patients that had no or only little pain in the last part of their life. Pain had a strong correlation to survival. This may be due to secondary effects like depressing the mood of the patient and reducing the food intake, but is probably more often a reflection of that generalized cancer induces more pain. Analgesic drugs are the cornerstone of the pharmacologic management of pain due to pancreatic cancer. A significant part of the patients do well with only paracetamol and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory agents. Combining these agents with narcotic analgesics can enhance pain control while lessening the dose of narcotics. A wide range of narcotics are available as well as different modes for delivery: regular pills, slow release forms, injections, subcutaneous injections, epidural etc. Each patient's pain management should be individualized, based on the intensity of pain, the type of pain and the side effects. It is essential not only to describe the medication, but also to follow-up the development of the pain and the patient's total experience of the situation. As an alternative to narcotics, plexus celiac blocks have been used with somewhat different result; in the hands of the experts the percutaneous approach is usually sufficient, but in the hands of other also poor results are reported. During the last years thoracoscopic splanchnicectomy has been tried as a complement giving long-standing pain relief with little or no side effects in the majority of patients. With this approach the sympathetic fibers lead by the symphathetic chain and further by the nervus splanchnicus major, minor and minors are divided. The denervation is easily done and can be performed bilateraly in one seance. This method will probably be used more often as the technique is now well described.

PMID:
10436837
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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