Effective treatments to relieve cancer pain are currently available to physicians and pharmacists. Unfortunately, many cancer patients are still suffering needlessly. Experts in the area of cancer pain research have identified three primary reasons why cancer pain is often undertreated:

Knowledge Deficits

Cultural and Attitudinal Barriers

Regulatory Influences

Knowledge Deficits

Although cancer research over the last 50 years has led to increased knowledge about many types of cancer, the effective treatment of cancer pain is still not universally understood. Methodologies for the treatment of cancer pain were originally developed through studies of post-operative pain or other unrelated types of transient, short-term patient discomforts.


- Dr. Jules Blank
Oncologist and member,
Wisconsin Cancer Pain Initiative
In addition, many doctors, nurses, and pharmacists have little or no training in the treatment of cancer pain. Even in the field of oncology, cancer pain relief has not been given the emphasis it deserves.

When cancer pain is treated, it is too often mistreated or undertreated due to prevalent misconceptions about the potential for addiction. Sometimes described as "opiophobia," or a fear of prescribing narcotics, this reluctance has resulted in the chronic undertreatment of cancer pain.

Cultural and Attitudinal Barriers

Misconceptions among healthcare professionals and the public have fostered cultural and attitudinal barriers to the appropriate and adequate use of narcotics. Too often, physicians, family members, and even patients themselves resist effective pain treatment because strong narcotics are compared to illicit street drugs and the images associated with addicts.

In fact, cancer patients rarely develop the psychological dependence on narcotics which is the definition of true addiction.
Regulatory Influences

Regulatory acts relating to drug prescriptions are supposed to assure an adequate supply of narcotics for legitimate medical use and prevent illegal diversions to drug pushers and abusers. Unfortunately, that is not always the outcome.


- Dr. Albert Schweitzer


Both the public and healthcare professionals often confuse the legitimate use of narcotics with an image more accurately associated with illegal drug abuse. These prejudices and myths can result in disagreements between state regulatory boards and physicians on the rightful use of narcotics for pain relief. Physicians who fear unwarranted sanctions are reluctant to prescribe narcotics appropriately and adequately. The net result is inadequate pain relief for cancer patients.

The TCPI is working with the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners to clearly define appropriate practice for the prescribing of narcotics.