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Pain as a predictor of head/neck cancer survivorship

Posted Aug 17 2009 12:00am
After Cancer Now What has a post about a recent research article in the August issue of Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery : The Role of Pain in Head and Neck Cancer Recurrence and Survivorship http://archotol.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/135/8/789 .
This longitudinal study followed 339 patients with head/neck cancer at the University of Iowa between Feb 28, 1998 and Nov 30, 2001. Self-reporting surveys were filled out by the patients, indicating their level of pain. From the abstract: "Pain was associated with age, general physical and mental health conditions, depressive symptoms, survival rate, and recurrence within the first year. The 5-year survival rate was 81.8% for patients with low posttreatment pain and 65.1% for those with high pain."
Note: I have not read the full text of this article, just the abstract. After Cancer Now What mentions more, possibly from a press release about the article. You can request the full-text from your local library, or from one listed in this directory: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/libraries.html
If you are experiencing pain, tell your doctor. If attention isn't given to figuring out what is causing your pain, tell another health care provider. Keep telling. Pain is a biggy - a red flag symptom - and it should be monitored and managed, just as your other symptoms. My health care team has addressed my various pains quickly each time I have experienced them - the headaches, which turned out to be the benign "whatever" growing between the layers in my skull; the chest and abdomen pains, both of which resulted in extensive scanning that didn't turn up cancer, thank goodness, but I can now attest that scans do not reduce pains (figure they are just due to old age, and I live with them). I run around with a headache most days that ranks about a 4 on the pain scale - other days, just like before cancer, I have stronger headaches, but nothing like when that thing was growing in my skull, or the original tumor that caused me pain for 3 years. Pay attention to pain, and let your health professionals know if you are experiencing "the usual", or something more.
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