Health care professionals’ familiarity with non-pharmacological strategies for managing cancer pain
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Many studies have confirmed unnecessary suffering among cancer patients, due to the inadequate use of analgesic medication and other effective interventions. While pharmacological treatments are appropriately the central component of cancer pain management, the under-utilization of effective nonpharmacological strategies (NPS) may contribute to the problem of pain and suffering among cancer patients. The purpose of this study was to determine health care professionals' familiarity with, and perceptions regarding, NPS for managing cancer pain, and to assess their interest in learning more about NPS as adjuncts to pharmacological analgesics. Two-hundred and fourteen health care professionals were surveyed at two cancer treatment centres in Ontario, Canada. The self-report questionnaire included questions regarding 11 psychological strategies (e.g. imagery) and eight other NPS (e.g. acupuncture). The response rate was 67% (141/214). Subjects were found to be the least familiar with autogenic training, operant conditioning, and cognitive therapy. Other than radiation and surgery, subjects most commonly reported recommending support groups (67%), imagery (54%), music or art therapy (49%) and meditation (43%) for managing cancer pain. Participants were most interested in learning more about acupuncture, massage therapy, therapeutic touch, hypnosis, and biofeedback. Participants were somewhat familiar with most of the 19 NPS presented; however, they use or recommend few NPS for managing cancer pain. Health professionals' interest in NPS has important implications for the supportive care of cancer patients.
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