Dr Tim Hucker is Clinical Lead of the Pain Service at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, a director of Pain Specialists Australia and a lecturer at Monash University. One of Victoria's foremost pain specialists, Dr Hucker was recently involved in revising Overcoming Cancer Pain booklet as part of the biennial review. To coincide with the launch of the new edition, Dr Hucker spoke to us about current themes in cancer pain management.
What do you consider the most important things to tell health professionals who are caring for patients experiencing cancer related pain?
We need to think about pain management in different ways. If you get people's pain controlled, they tend to make better treatment decisions. There may be simple pain control options that can be used first, before cancer treatments, to improve function and open up the sphere of treatment options.
If you recognise the problem is there in the first place, that's the first step to getting it fixed. The prevalence of cancer pain including pain rated as severe is still very high and we should focus on improving these statistics for our patients.
Thinking about pain in the cancer survivor, we aim to return them to as close to normal functioning as quickly and safely as possible. Referral to pain specialists to provide multidisciplinary care aimed at pain and function is vital and a very useful source of information.
Where can health professionals get up-to-date advice and information in relation to pain management for cancer patients?
Oncology practice has changed over the past 30 years and pain practice has to keep up with that. The Cancer Guidelines Wiki, Cancer pain management in adults, contains all most people need to know, from GPs to patients. Referring on to pain and palliative care means all the options can be put in place.
What changes can you can see happening in the field in the coming years?
Increasing referrals to pain specialists and palliative care specialists can help to advocate for funding and support to implement the guidelines, and align us with international standards for complex pain, interventions and multidisciplinary pain management.
In terms of exciting changes, I believe that if we get the right research done it will show that people with better pain management get better outcomes.
Overcoming Cancer Pain is an easy-to-read resource for patients during all stages of cancer and survivorship. Reviewed by a national panel of clinicians and consumers, the new (2018) edition is available now. Visit our website to view, order and download copies for your patients, their families and friends.
We especially acknowledge and thank Dr Hucker for his time and contribution.
Three fact sheets – “What Is Cancer?”, “Coping with Cancer Fatigue” and “Caring for Someone with Cancer” – are now available to download in bilingual versions in Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), Greek, Hindi, Italian, Tamil, Tagalog and Vietnamese.
New editions now available: Understanding Cervical Cancer and Understanding Stomach and Oesophageal Cancers. Understanding Secondary Bone Cancer – an online fact sheet (available to download, not otherwise in hard copy)
John Colebatch (1909–2005) was the pioneer of paediatric chemotherapy in Australia. Thanks in part to his work, most children now survive cancer. Read this fascinating account of his life by Tim Colebatch, John’s youngest son and former editor and columnist with The Age.