• Vol. 38 No. 11, 989–997
  • 15 November 2009

The Role of Interventional Therapies in Cancer Pain Management



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Cancer pain is complex and multifactorial. Most cancer pain can be effectively controlled using analgesics in accordance to the WHO analgesic ladder. However, in a small but significant percentage of cancer patients, systemic analgesics fail to provide adequate control of cancer pain. These cancer patients can also suffer from intolerable adverse effects of drug therapy or intractable cancer pain in advance disease. Though the prognosis of these cancer patients is often very limited, the pain relief, reduced medical costs and improvement in function and quality of life from a wide variety of available interventional procedures is extremely invaluable. These interventions can be used as sole agents or as useful adjuncts to supplement analgesics. This review will discuss interventional procedures such as epidural and intrathecal drug infusions, intrathecal neurolysis, sympathetic nervous system blockade, nerve blocks, vertebroplasty and the more invasive neurosurgical procedures. Intrathecal medications including opioids, local anaesthetics, clonidine, and ziconotide will also be discussed.

Pain is one of the most common symptoms experienced by cancer patients around the world at some point during the course of their illness.1 Prevalence can range from 40%2 to as high as 90% with advanced disease.3 Most of these patients suffer from pain at multiple areas.4 Pain can be due to cancer at the primary site, from areas of metastases, its treatment, or to another condition.5

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