THE pain of advanced cancer patients is excruciating, relentless and unbearable. For those admitted to a hospital in Pakistan good medications like morphine are available. But for the vast majority there is almost nothing is available for pain relief in a domestic setting. This has been like that for decades.
Why does not the Ministry of Health and the Director General of Health (who is always a physician) look into this crucial health crisis? The recent report of the shocking number of head and neck cancer show it has become an epidemic.
Very few centres in Pakistan have specialists with the knowledge and expertise to deal with cancer as a whole, let alone this most dreaded head and neck cancer, which has a surgical treatment modality, followed, if needed, by radiotherapy.
The recent book by the world renown cancer specialist at Columbia University, Dr Azra Raza (The First Cell) tells us that in advanced countries the only relief is hospice care where pain specialists know what needs to be done.
It is time the DG Health set up a committee to look into this most humane of all steps to care for those at home or in a hospital. The age-old concern about drug abuse is a farce. A drug enforcement agency can be set up to allow powerful pain killers to be prescribed with iron-clad guidelines. Medications like Fentanyl patches, slow release morphine, codeine, hydrocodone are just a few that should be available.
Dr Nasir Ahmad
Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2019