For those who live with advanced form cancer, pain often becomes an unwanted companion. Managing pain becomes part of life. If untreated, pain can control our lives. Our pain can be a result of chemotherapy treatments, radiations, or result of surgeries. Every medication that can help us is appreciated. Abstral is one of them. For those who are new to the topic of cancer related pain, there is a web-site dedicated specifically to the issues of cancer-pain, called www.cancer-pain.org.
About two years ago I have been introduced to a drug called Abstral. Abstral was developed by a Sweden-based company and therefore I have been able to use it for some time. Abstral was approved in January 2011 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA has approved Abstral for the management of breakthrough cancer pain in adult patients 18 years of age and older. The tablets are an alternative to oral tablets or injections of fentanyl pain medications.
What are the advantages?
Abstral is administered as a quick-dissolving tablet placed under the tongue. It works in a few minutes. Abstral is very valuable when travelling, because the tablets relieve me of extreme pain within minutes and they can replace intravenous injections. It is not meant to be used as a regular pain medication. Abstral should be used under extraordinary circumstances. I my case in the mornings, as the tumors in my back can cause a lot of pain if I have slept in a certain position. Specially if traveling and sleeping in a different bed than the one I have at home. Once relieved of the extra pain I can function with my traditional pain medication.
Why do I mention Abstral?
After two years I ended up using almost double the allowed maximum dose. My pain started to control my life. Leaving my home for more than a day became a great effort.
For the last three months me and my husband have been working hard on lowering the dose. After consultation with a pain specialist we have increased the doses of opioids with extended release formulations, such as Dolcontin (trade name for Morphine sulfate) or Oxycontin (trade name for Oxycodone Hydrochloride). The purpose was to manage my pain the right way. The increased doses of Dolcontin allowed me to lower the doses of Abstral.
The process is not easy. I have therefore asked my husband to carry my Abstral tablets with him in order to prevent me from using it without a real reason. Nowadays I have to ask for a tablet, and he keeps track of the daily doses.
Over the years I was given a lot of independence to manage my pain. The doctors knew that I suffered of pain and they trusted my judgment. But my approach was not optimal. Luckily, I have recognized the right time to ask for help. Abstral works again. I am extremely relieved.
Would you like to read more about pain perception and pain scales – here is a link to one of my articles.