February 4, 2000

UCSD Cancer Center Launches Pain Relief Unit

UCSD Cancer Center has established a new clinical service unit dedicated to alleviating cancer pain and related symptoms that affect quality of life such as nausea, fatigue, loss of sleep and depression.  The Cancer Pain Relief Unit provides inpatient and outpatient care as well as care in the home or at hospice centers.

  “With the medications and techniques we have available today, we can adequately treat 99.9 percent of cancer patients who have pain, and vastly improve their quality of life,” said Mark Wallace, M.D., Director of the Cancer Pain Relief Unit at UCSD Cancer Center and of the Pain Management Medical Group at UCSD Medical Center.  “There is no reason for anyone with cancer to feel they must endure pain as part of their disease.”

 Cancer Center Director David Tarin, M.D., Ph.D., agreed, stating: “Sadly, cancer pain is still not widely recognized or treated in our society.  One of our central goals is to raise awareness among physicians and patients of the availability of effective therapies, and of the need for early treatment, before the pain becomes a crisis.”

 The Cancer Pain Relief Unit is staffed by a team of physicians, nurses and psychologists who take into account the patient’s total pain experience when creating a treatment plan.

 “We consider not only the type, location and amount of pain a person reports, but also other factors that might influence pain such as past experiences, culture, and emotional response to pain,” said Wallace, an associate professor of anesthesiology with UCSD School of Medicine and a nationally respected authority on pain management. 

 Through the program patients have access to a wide variety of treatment options, including medications, nerve deadening and stimulation techniques, intraspinal drug delivery, psychological counseling, chiropractic, and integrative (or alternative) medicine techniques ranging from acupuncture and therapeutic touch to hypnosis and biofeedback. 

“Some of what we do involves fairly sophisticated skills and techniques, but sometimes it is as simple as changing to a new drug or using a motion-sickness patch for nausea,” said Wallace.

 Also available are free patient-education classes that include information on the newest research advances, medications and surgical procedures, integrative or alternative therapies, exercises, and spirituality.  These classes are open to patients and their families from throughout the community.  To register call the UCSD Patient Education Office, (619) 543-3640.

 Patients are also offered the opportunity to participate in clinical trials of promising new drugs or drug-delivery methods.  For example, UCSD is participating in an international study in which a drug is administered through the spinal cord in doses at a fraction of those required as an oral medication.  Researchers are studying whether this method will provide similar pain relief with fewer side effects.  In another type of study, related to breast cancer, the researchers are comparing a new biopsy technique with the standard biopsy to see if one results in less post-procedure pain.

 The UCSD pain management programs are the only such programs in San Diego that provide multidisciplinary clinical care and research.  The UCSD pain group is recognized as a world leader in pain research, and is in the top 1 percent of programs worldwide in grant funding.  The Cancer Pain Relief Unit is a patient-care service of UCSD Cancer Center, the only cancer center in San Diego and Imperial counties designated for both research and clinical care by the National Cancer Institute. 

  For further information about the Cancer Pain Relief Unit, call (858) 657-6035.

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