Barring systemic changes in health care for these medical conditions, there are still actions that can be taken in the short-term to help patients. My first recommendation is to truly listen and validate the feelings and experiences that those with fibromyalgia and a history of cancer share. Being heard and understood is a powerful first step in reaching a better quality of life. The second step I recommend is for health care providers to advocate for the needs of their patients — while, to some, this can feel overwhelming to do, advocacy is often simpler than it appears. Advocacy can take the shape of helping patients conference call in a family member into meetings with doctors, researching resources for mental health counseling, or finding resources that can help patients with household tasks. For those in a medical setting, current guidelines suggest a combination of pharmacological and nonpharmacological treatment options for patients with fibromyalgia.8 Taking the time to listen to patients as they explain how effective their pharmacological treatments are will help to ensure that those individuals continue to experience effective pain management over time. Finally, referring patients to integrative health services such as acupuncture, yoga,7 massage therapy, or meditation may offer further benefit.
At CancerCare, we also offer a number of services for patients with cancer and their caregivers. Counseling is available to those in New York and New Jersey, and case management services and online support groups are available to patients nationally. CancerCare also offers the HOPEline at 800-813-4673, open Monday through Friday, with calls answered by master’s-prepared oncology social workers.
Mary Hanley is an online support group program coordinator at CancerCare.
- Macfarlane GJ, McBeth J, Silman AJ. Widespread body pain and mortality: prospective population based study. BMJ.2001;323(7314):662-665. doi: 10.1136/bmj.323.7314.662
- Walitt B, Nahin RL, Katz RS, Bergman MJ, Wolfe F. The prevalence and characteristics of fibromyalgia in the 2012 National Health Interview survey. PloS One. 2015;10(9):e0138024. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0138024
- Akkaya N, Atalay NS, Selcuk ST, Alkan H, Catalbas N, Sahin F. Frequency of fibromyalgia syndrome in breast cancer patients [published online February 10, 2012]. Int J Clin Oncol. doi: 10.1007/s10147-012-0377-9
- Caraceni A, Shkodra M. Cancer pain assessment and classification. Cancers (Basel). 2019;11(4):510. doi: 10.3390/cancers11040510 https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11040510
- Niedzwiedz CL, Knifton L, Robb KA, Katikireddi SV, Smith DJ. Depression and anxiety among people living with and beyond cancer: a growing clinical and research priority. BMC Cancer. 2019;19(1):943. doi: 10.1186/s12885-019-6181-4
- Cohen H. Controversies and challenges in fibromyalgia: a review and a proposal. Ther Adv Musculoskelet Dis. 2017;9(5):115-127. doi: 10.1177/1759720X17699199
- Kiel M. The benefits of yoga for cancer patients. Oncology Nurse Advisor. https://www.oncologynurseadvisor.com/home/departments/from-cancercare/benefits-of-yoga-for-cancer-patients/. Published January 16, 2020. Accessed June 23, 2020.
- Thomas SA, Knight L, Balian A. Treatment of Fibromyalgia Pain. U.S. Pharmacist. https://www.uspharmacist.com/article/treatment-of-fibromyalgia-pain. Published March 17, 2016. Accessed June 29, 2020.