Depending on the context, words like Fentanyl, morphine and opioids will invoke different feelings in the minds of health officials and healthcare providers. On the one hand, they can refer to serious drug abuse problems that could cost lives and destroy families. On the other hand, they are also medications that can bring substantive pain relieve to people, such as cancer patients. In this article, we will touch on the use of Fentanyl and other opioids in Singapore for cancer pain control.
What is Fentanyl?
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention explains that “pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine”.
Opioids in turn, are a class of drugs found in the opium poppy plant. They work in the brain to produce various effects, including pain relief. Opioids can be prescribed as painkillers, or they can be made into “street drugs” like heroin.
Use Of Fentanyl And Other Opioids In Singapore For Cancer Pain Control
Dr Kok Jaan Yang, Senior Consultant, Palliative Medicine, at Parkway Cancer Centre, explains in an article on the Centre’s website that the WHO’s 3-Step Ladder Analgesic for Cancer Pain provides a very useful guideline for healthcare workers to choose the appropriate analgesia (a class of medications designed to relieve pain) for patients. The analgesia chosen is based on pain intensity. Up to 90% of cancer pain can be controlled using this guideline.
Step 1 – Non-opioid drugs (e.g. paracetamol) and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID)s for mild cancer pain.
Step 2 – Weak opioids (e.g. tramadol or codeine) for moderate cancer pain.
Step 3 – Strong opioids (e.g. morphine, oxycodone or fentanyl) for severe cancer pain control.
Not all cancer patients will experience pain. However, where there is pain felt, doctors will prescribe medication based on the severity of the pain experienced. Mild to moderate pain will be addressed with weak opioids or even paracetamol. It is only when the pain is severe will the doctor prescribe the use of Fentanyl and other stronger opioids.
How Is Fentanyl Administered For Cancer Pain Control?
Fentanyl is administered to patients either in the form of a patch (placed on the skin) or via injection / drip.
Fentanyl Side Effects
Patients taking Fentanyl may experience
- Constipation, nausea and vomiting.
- Drowsiness or dizziness.
- Application site rashes or itchiness.
Serious side effects include
- Swollen face, eyes, lips or tongue.
- Breathing difficulties.
- Itchy skin rashes.
Patients who experience breathing difficulty, fainting, dizziness or light-headedness or blurred vision, should stop the medication and seek medical help immediately.
Worried About Cost Of Cancer Treatment In Singapore?
The cost of treating late-stage cancer in Singapore can be in the range of $100,000 to $200,000 per year, or more. If you are concerned about the financial implications of cancer, you can consider cancer insurance as a cost-effective way of protecting against cancer costs. Examples of cancer insurance plans you can consider include those from AXA (Cancer ReCover), Income (Cancer Protect), Prudential (PruCancer 360), and Tokio Marine (TM Protect Cancer).
This article is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.