Sometimes Treating Pain Is As Important As Treating Disease

Amy Berman of New York City had been living with inflammatory breast cancer for about five years when, during a ride on the Q train one day in 2014, she noticed a pain in her back.

Berman is a registered nurse and, at first, she thought it was a fracture. The cancer had already metastasized to her bones, she knew, making them more susceptible to breakage. But X-rays and testing revealed a different problem. The metastasis had reached the center of her spine, causing pain that would soon get worse.

Berman’s oncologist recommended the standard course of radiation therapy with multiple doses. Although it would likely “turn off” the pain, she learned, it would also cause weeks of severe side effects, including nausea, loss of appetite, skin burning and fatigue.

At that point, Berman consulted a palliative care specialist, which is something relatively few patients in her situation do because they don’t know the option exists, their insurance won’t pay for it or they can’t find a provider.

For Berman, it made a big difference.

Palliative care focuses on the management of pain and symptoms, as well as the quality of life, rather than trying to treat the disease itself. Ideally, palliative care involves a team of doctors, nurses and social workers, all of whom work together and in coordination with the patients and their families.

To read the complete article By Jonathan Cohn from the Huffpost click here.

Image Courtesy of HUFFPOST: Amy Berman (second from left) recently visited Norway and even got a reindeer ride. She credits palliative care with her ability to keep working and traveling, despite a diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer nine years ago.