Cancer Pain Program
Call (608) 422-8000 to make a referral to the Cancer Pain Program
Anesthesiologists, oncologists, including palliative care specialists, and rehabilitation providers work together for improved pain management, tailoring opioid consumption, reducing medicine toxicities and restoring function so as to improve quality of life.
Cancer Pain Program Services
- Pain assessments
- Medication consultation
- Palliative care consultations
- Opioid-sparing regimens
- Epidural steroid injections
- Nerve block and neurolysis therapies
- Spinal cord stimulation
- Radiofrequency ablation
- Muscular and intra-articular injections
- Oncology rehabilitation, including functional assessment, evaluation for braces and assist devices and electrodiagnostic evaluation of cancer-related nerve issues
- Referrals to acupuncture, massage, mindfulness meditation, psychology and psychiatry
Cancer Pain Program Locations
Providers see cancer patients at three Madison locations:
UW Carbone Cancer Center
600 Highland Avenue, Madison
UW Carbone Cancer Clinic
1 S. Park Street, Madison
UW Health Pain Management Clinic
1102 S. Park Street, Madison
Cancer Pain Causes and Treatments
Question and Answer with Peggy Kim, MD who provides interventional treatments in conjunction with standard pain treatment to provide optimal pain relief.
Q: What causes cancer pain and what pain is unique to cancer patients?
A: Cancer pain can be caused directly by the cancer itself, such as if the mass is pressing on a nerve. But the treatments we use can have their own unfortunate side effects. Radiation can lead to skin burns or changes to tissue and people can have long-lasting pain. Chemotherapy can sometimes lead to neuropathy, where the hands and feet feel tingling or pain.
Q: What pain treatment options are there for a cancer patient?
A: It's important for patients to know that there are often several options or combinations of treatments to help them with their pain. They can be prescribed medications or be referred to physical therapy or a physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) doctor. The area in which I specialize is with some of the newer technologies or interventions. The intervention could be an injection, such as a steroid injection. It could be neurolysis, where nerve endings are killed to reduce pain. I also implant devices such as spinal cord stimulators.
It is important to know that the treatment options depend on the type and location of pain, and where the patient is in their cancer journey. With nerve killing, for example, the nerve endings can grow back and when they do they are often more painful than before. But that process usually takes six months so we tend to reserve the treatment for end-of-life pain management. I've also had a patient who had completed breast cancer treatment and had 'frozen shoulder,' a common side effect of treatment. Because of her cancer status, nerve killing was not the best option. I performed an injection and referred her to physical therapy, and she said her pain is 70 percent better and still improving. We work with patients to identify the risk-and-benefit balance that is right for them.
Q: When should a patient seek treatment for their pain?
A: I think patients are often hesitant to bring up pain with their oncologist because they think they need to focus on the cancer treatment plan and next steps, or they feel pain is just something they will have to live with. Anytime a patient is concerned about pain they are experiencing, they should definitely bring it up with their oncologist or primary care physician. And earlier is better – sometimes we see patients too late and some interventions are no longer options.