Greater Understanding of Risk Guides Use of Opioids in Mesothelioma Patients
Malignant mesothelioma is diagnosed in approximately 3,000 Americans every year, and those patients’ treatment protocols are guided by the type of mesothelioma they have, how far advanced their disease is, their overall health, their age, and other factors. Most follow a multimodality path of radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery, and those that have surgery are usually prescribed pain medication. In the face of America’s growing epidemic of opioid addiction, researchers at the University of California set out to gain a better understanding of which patients are most likely to be at risk.
Opioid Prescription is Common for Mesothelioma Patients
Most patients who undergo surgery for malignant mesothelioma are prescribed opioids for pain, and many are offered the medications regardless of whether they are undergoing surgery or not. Pain is one of the first presenting symptoms of both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma.
Balancing concerns over addiction against the need to provide patients relief is a challenge for mesothelioma doctors, but the University of California study looked at medical records from more than 100,000 cancer patients and revealed that there are certain predictive factors that can guide physicians’ decisions.
Risk Factors for Mesothelioma Patient Opioid Addiction
Though the study did not specifically look at mesothelioma patients’ opioid experience, there were mesothelioma patients included among the Veterans Administration patients whose records were analyzed. The researchers assessed a number of ends results among the population, including long-term use, opioid abuse, and hospitalization for overdoses, then focused in to identify the risk factors associated with those outcomes.
They found that among the 8.3 percent of patients who ended up using opioids long term there was a higher risk among those who’d never taken the addictive pain relievers previously. When it came to addiction, those who were older, employed and lived in higher-income zip codes had the lowest risk, and the same was true for African Americans in general. Those at highest risk had a history of either drug abuse or alcoholism, additional health problems, and a history of depression.
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