Cancer Survivorship, Rehabilitation, and Pain Management
Report on CCSN’s Fifth All-Party Cancer Caucus, Dec. 5, 2019
Although advancements in cancer treatments have led to increased survival rates, many cancer survivors suffer from side effects for months, years, and even decades after their treatment. Approximately 40% of cancer survivors report difficulties in basic activities of daily living and 55-60% report limitations in instrumental activities of daily living such as preparing meals and completing. household chores. In order to address the lack of access to rehabilitation services for cancer patients, CCSN hosted its 9th Annual All-Party Cancer Caucus.
We were joined by two medical experts, Dr. Jennifer Jones, Director of Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship Program and Dr. David Flamer Anesthesiologist, Co-Director, Cancer Pain Clinic, Princess Margaret Hospital. John Peachy, a lung cancer survivor, and Vinesha Ramasamy, a bone cancer survivor, shared their experiences with chronic pain.
Dr. Jones began her address by discussing the pressing need for more cancer rehabilitation services. She described the difference between acute side effects (experienced during treatment) and persistent side effects (experienced after treatment) and the lack of assistance of available to manage the latter. Additionally, Dr. Jones explained that pain experienced after treatment is often unreported and therefore undiagnosed. Unfortunately, the rehabilitation services that currently exist are often only available at large hospitals, making it difficult for many patients to access treatments.
Dr. Flamer followed by providing an overview of some common reasons for pain in cancer patients and how the treatment prescribed differs depending on the cause of pain. Causes of cancer pain include direct tutor invasion, metastatic bone pain, radiation-related pain, and post-surgical pain. He went on to explain the issue with the long-term use of opiates as a pain management tool and the issues that come from dependency. As a result, medical professionals are increasingly exploring the viability of non-pharmacological solutions. Additionally, early intervention is necessary to decrease pain scores and improve quality of of life.
Unfortunately, John Peachy was unable to attend the conference and so our Public Policy Analyst, Alexander Wyatt, shared John’s story. Even in John’s absence, his story still resonated deeply with the audience. John’s story highlighted the need for further developments in pain management therapies.
Our last presenter, Vinesha Ramasamy, shared her experiences as a cancer survivor from her diagnosis of aggressive, high-stage osteosarcoma at 15-years-old. Many of her treatments resulted in chronic pain that she has had to manage throughout her life. Vinesha strongly urges cancer patients and survivors to be vocal about their pain and to seek out the therapies they require.
Overall, our All-Party Cancer Caucus highlighted the need for increased access to cancer rehabilitation services in Ontario, and the rest of Canada.