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Managing Breakthrough Cancer Pain in the Philippines

“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.”
Lance Armstrong

For most cancer patient, pain is the most common symptom that they have to deal with from time to time. About 90 percent of people who are diagnosed with an advanced disease frequently suffer from pain. In most cancer patients, pain is the most feared symptom since they tend to associate pain with the disease deterioration. 

The truth of the matter is, most cancer patients experience varying types of pain and the most common of which is baseline or background pain which can be easily managed by long-acting prescription drugs for pain. However, despite of properly addressing baseline pain many cancer patients still experience a more pronounced pain of quick but intense onset on a shorter duration that can occur in an instant or predictably. This is what breakthrough cancer pain is all about.

What is breakthrough cancer pain?

Often referred as ‘flare-ups”, breakthrough cancer pain is a serious symptom that can affect the quality of living of any cancer patient who is already managing chronic pain through medications.

Breakthrough cancer pain is not a new type of pain but a more severe episode of an intensified existing background pain. It can come as a predictable episode or spontaneous attacks that can trigger an intense pain for 3 minutes that last for 30 minutes on an average.

Breakthrough Cancer Pain Media Event for Bloggers

March 8, 2017 at the Edsa Shang-rila Hotel in Mandaluyong, a media event was held for bloggers that provided valuable information on breakthrough cancer pain.

Dr. Dolma Santos, member of the Board of Directors of the Pain Society of the Philippines

Sharing their expertise on the topics were Dr. Dolma Santos, member of the Board of Directors of the Pain Society of the Philippines and Professor Michael Uberall, a renowned and widely published physician in the Pain and Palliative Care with over 600 scientific lectures and more than 100 original papers in this field. Prof. Uberall is also the Medical Director of the Institute for Neurological Sciences in Nuernberg Germany and the President of the German Pain League.

Professor Michael Uberall, President of the German Pain League

According to the Philippine Cancer Facts & Estimates, there will be 6 million people worldwide and 200,000 Filipinos who will suffer from cancer pain, majority of which are not satisfactorily relieved in spit of availability of well-established, simple and cost-effective methods for cancer pain relief” – Dr. Dolma Santos.


2 Types of Cancer Pain

Background pain and breakthrough pain are the two types of cancer pain. According to Professor Uberall, breakthrough cancer pain (BTcP) is a transient exacerbation of pain that occurs either spontaneously, or in relation to a specific predictable or unpredictable trigger, despite relatively stable and adequately controlled background pain. 

Breakthrough cancer pain is characterized by a sudden onset of pain that reaches peak intensity within as little as 3 minutes and lasts for an average of 30 minutes. Patients with cancer have around four episodes of breakthrough cancer pain in a day on an average.

Effective Management of Breakthrough Cancer Pain

Dealing with breakthrough cancer pain is very common for most cancer patients. This type of cancer pain can negatively affect the quality of life including the ability to enjoy life, social relationships and even career. 

Numerous studies have already reported that a large percentage of cancer patients who are suffering from breakthrough cancer pain are not satisfied with the way that this type of pain is controlled. Hence, there is an imperative need for an effective relief for breakthrough cancer pain that works fast and is relatively safe.

Effective treatment of symptoms commonly associated with cancer such as breakthrough cancer pain is now possible through a medication that is specifically formulated for this type of condition. 

Now, cancer patients who suffer from Breakthrough Cancer Pain do not have to miss those special moments in their lives. If you or any of your loved ones are suffering from Breakthrough Cancer Pain, please seek consult with either your pain/palliative care specialist or medical oncologist.


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