News | Published July 11, 2012

Quality of life at every stage

It's always about the quality of life, no matter how long that life may be. That's the philosophy behind Mount Nittany Health's Pain Management Clinic's treatment for people with end stage cancer.

People usually want to spend quality time with their loved ones, and often they want to get their affairs in order. This can be hard to do with some of the pain treatment, particularly those involving strong doses of narcotics which can cause grogginess, constipation and nausea.

"There are a lot of different things to try to minimize the pain and side effects and provide a better quality of life," according to Jennifer Gilbert, DO, Pain Management Clinic. Some of the successful pain management solutions have to do with the administration; putting the dosage directly into the spinal fluid, creating a combination of medicines that can be effective, and adhering to a schedule, such as using a pump during the night.

"Medicines don't always have to be taken orally," said Upendra Thaker, MD, director of the Pain Management Clinic. "Sometimes chemotherapy can make the gums and mouth sore, in which case medicine might best be tolerated with a patch on the skin," he said.

A variety of pain applications include:

  • Nerve blocks which deaden nerves from the region so that the brain does not perceive pain
  • Numbing agents which modify sensitivity of the nerves
  • Tunneled epidural catheter and IVs which are more resistant to infections and which can put medication into the blood stream or spinal cord. Entry sites can be changed and doses regulated to provide the best relief and comfort
  • A medication "film" which is placed in the mouth
  • Pills - oral medications, both narcotic and non-narcotic

The message from the Pain Management Clinic to people with cancer and their families is, "We are here and we can help."

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