Relieving pain for people with cancer

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A month ago, April Sapp couldn’t climb stairs. She couldn’t even get out of bed. The pain from a rare cancer in her pelvis was stabbing and constant.

“It’s really hard to describe because it was just torture,” says April.

She saw Dr. William Rosenberg of Research Medical Center. They decided on a procedure using a needle and probe to zap certain pain fibers in her spinal cord.

“Frequently, the stories are all they’re doing is giving more narcotics. They’re sleeping 23 hours a day,” says Dr. Rosenberg.

But there are other treatments for cancer pain. Dr. Rosenberg says part of the problem is that various specialties — from oncology to pain management to neurosurgery — haven’t come together to look at all their tools.

“In this big toolbox, what’s the right order for the right patient?” asks the neurosurgeon.

Dr. Rosenberg has assembled the Cancer Pain Clinical Research Consortium including doctors from the U.S. and Canada. The goal is to develop a road map for doctors to follow in treating cancer pain. They’ll look at risks, benefits and costs.

April believes she and Dr. Rosenberg made the right decision to go with the nerve-zapping procedure. She still has some pain, but says she’s feeling normal again.

“If there is an earlier expiration date in my life than I’d like, then at least this gives me the option to live comfortably,” says April.

The hope with the consortium is to prevent suffering for other cancer patients.

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