My role in the team: Oncologist

With Professor Li Zhang  |  16 Jul 2014  |  Print

My role in the team: Oncologist

Professor Li Zhang is vice chairman of the Department of Medical Oncology at the Sun-Yat-sen University Cancer Center in Guangzhou, China

At Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center, we have established a special multidisciplinary cancer pain treatment team, which includes cancer pain specialists, surgeons, anesthetists, radiologists, nurses and pharmacists. As a member of the multidisciplinary team, I work with the other pain specialists to supervise cancer pain treatment in the center and provide advice on comprehensive pain management of difficult cases.

The biggest challenge in assessing and treating cancer pain is that many patients have misconceptions about pain treatments, which can lead to unwarranted concerns about their side effects. Consequently, patients can be reluctant to report pain, and their resistance to specific treatments can hinder appropriate assessment and treatment of their condition. There is also a lack of knowledge among some medical staff about personalized pain control medicine and the importance of dynamic evaluation of analgesic effects. Furthermore, some local hospital policies for the regulation of narcotics can overly restrict the use of opioid analgesics.

Educating patients about cancer pain and pain management is essential if good pain management is to be achieved. Where possible, I try to dispel any misconceptions patients may have regarding treatment options by providing targeted education to both patients and their families. Appropriate training of medical staff is also critical to good pain management. Oncologists should have essential knowledge and skill regarding pain control and should know the etiology and pathophysiology of the pain that patients are experiencing, so that they can choose the appropriate treatment strategy for each patient. Medical staff should also be aware that pain control needs to be dynamically evaluated, and treatment should be adjusted when necessary to provide optimal pain management. We have recently developed a dynamic pain evaluation and intervention system based on cloud computing technology, which should be helpful for pain control in cancer patients and, in particular, for outpatients. We hope that this system can be promoted nationally to improve cancer pain management across China.