Coping with Cancer-related Pain
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1.5 million people—both adults and children—will be diagnosed with cancer this year. The good news is that thanks to advances in early detection (for adults) and treatment options (and reductions in cancer-causing habits such as smoking), deaths from cancer have decreased 27% over the past 25 years. Yet even with all of our amazing medical and scientific advances, for the millions of Americans with this dreaded disease, the fight against cancer is exhausting, difficult, and for many patients, quite often very painful.
Generally speaking, about half of all patients diagnosed with cancer will experience some type of cancer-related pain before, during, and even after treatment. The pain might be temporary or chronic, widespread throughout the body or focused in a single area, mild or severe. In some cases, the pain may be related to the cancer itself; a tumor, for instance, may grow large enough to cause pain by pressing on nerves, bones, and/or organs. For many patients, treatment for cancer itself, whether surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination thereof, can be exceedingly painful.
Treating pain in cancer patients requires a tailored approach unique to each individual. The specific approach will depend heavily on the type of pain they are experiencing and the type of cancer they are fighting, as well as the patient’s general health. In some cases, a surgical procedure may be able to remove or minimize the source of the pain. For others, medications may be appropriate; depending on the severity of the pain, and prescription strength; non-opioids such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be sufficient, while other patients may require the careful use of opioids such as oxycodone or morphine.
Refractory Pain in Cancer Patients and Ketamine Infusion Therapy
Unfortunately, some cancer patients will experience what physicians refer to as refractory pain. Pain is considered refractory when it proves resistant to traditional non-opioid and/or opioid treatment options. For these patients, the well-known anesthetic ketamine may provide an alternative, and more effective, treatment option. Ketamine has been used for decades as a fast-acting field anesthetic by the military and in human and veterinary medicine, and continues to be used on both adults and children during short but painful surgical procedures. When delivered in sub-anesthetic dosages through a slow and carefully-controlled IV infusion, ketamine has shown to offer highly effective pain relief. Moreover, it does so without the long-term risk of addiction presented by opioid pain medications.
How Ketamine Works to Deliver Effective Relief from Cancer Pain
Researchers currently believe that ketamine may present a more effective treatment option for cancer-related refractory pain because it acts differently on the brain than opioid-based medications. Currently, researchers theorize that ketamine resets the central nervous system’s sensitization to pain. In other words, the infusion of low dosages of ketamine works by calming the nerves themselves, thus increasing the threshold at which neurons in the body begin sending pain signals up to the brain. An increased threshold for pain signals therefore reduces the amount of pain signals sent to the brain, leading to an overall reduction in the amount of pain the patient perceives.
Ketamine Infusion Therapy as a treatment option for patients coping with refractory cancer pain usually involves a regular series of low dose ketamine infusions. If necessary, the initial series may be followed up by maintenance infusions at longer intervals to provide longer-term pain relief. The ketamine treatments involve the slow administration of an extremely low dose of ketamine directly into the bloodstream through an IV. At Ketamine Clinics of Los Angeles, a state-of-the-art clinic accredited by AAAASF, Dr. Steven L. Mandel specializes in the use of digital infusion pumps that deliver precisely tailored dosages that can be altered very quickly as needed to match each patient’s response to the treatment.
Each Ketamine Infusion Treatment plan and individual infusion is uniquely tailored to meet the needs of every patient. Most importantly, we work closely with the patient’s entire medical team to ensure that the Ketamine Infusion Therapy augments and supplements—but does not interfere with—the cancer treatment itself. In this way, we believe that Ketamine Infusion Therapy can play a critical role in helping both adult and pediatric cancer patients win their battle against cancer.
For more information about Ketamine Infusion Therapy treatments for depression, bipolar, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), fibromyalgia, pain syndromes and other conditions contact us at Ketamine Clinics of Los Angeles in Southern California (Orange County) by clicking here or calling 310-270-0625.