Unique to each patient
Dr John Williams, Consultant in Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine
“Pain is a deeply personal and emotive experience that is unique to each patient,” says Dr John Williams, who has led The Royal Marsden’s pain management service for more than 25 years. “Therefore, we strive to provide a bespoke service to each one.”
A highly experienced consultant who trained in anaesthetics and pain control in London, Oxford and Baltimore, USA, before joining The Royal Marsden, Dr Williams and his colleagues run clinics at our Cavendish Square centre to help private patients cope with painful side effects of cancer. Here, patients with a referral for a pain management review are offered a full assessment at their first appointment.
Pain can be divided into two types: acute, which is generally short-lasting, such as pain after surgery; and chronic, which presents for longer than a few months. The pain management team uses a biological-psychological-social approach to managing acute and chronic pain that results from cancer. Our experts aim to provide support, advice and treatment to address all these areas, leading to reduced pain, improved quality of life and rehabilitation.
“With improved cancer treatments, many people are living longer with cancer,” says Dr Williams. “Our goal is to improve the quality of the experience by focusing on pain and symptom control. “I’ll form an opinion about what I think is causing the pain and make a plan about the best way to treat it. I see myself as a central hub, with access to different options of pain control.”
One such option that has developed hugely in the past few years is interventional treatment. A patient may benefit from a nerve block, an epidural, or more advanced techniques such as implanted pain-relieving pumps or spinal cord stimulators.
As part of The Royal Marsden’s particular approach, our neurosurgeons will join the pain clinic’s multidisciplinary team meeting, where these advanced interventions and neurosurgical techniques for intractable pain are discussed. “What is unique about The Royal Marsden’s pain service at Cavendish Square is the open line of communication with the oncologists and surgeons at the hospital, and with other teams such as the physios or psychologists,” says Dr Williams. “Everything is linked through our electronic patient records, so we know what is going on for the patient in all areas of their treatment and care.
“The aim of the team is to make The Royal Marsden a ‘pain-free’ hospital, where we address and treat any pain problems a patient might have.”
Ray Sullivan, patient at The Royal Marsden
“I was diagnosed with cancer of the tonsil, which affected areas in my neck and throat. I was fortunate: my cancer was diagnosed fast, and I received exemplary treatment and care at The Royal Marsden.
“Due to the position of my cancer, I needed to undergo an intense course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy following surgery. At times during my treatment, I was in severe pain, which could only be controlled with strong morphine medications that required me to be admitted to hospital.
“Dr Williams and his team were so patient and kind during what was a difficult time for me. As an outpatient, I was seen at Cavendish Square. It’s a peaceful setting with state-of-the-art facilities and clinicians who are leaders in their fields. I was almost able to forget I was in a hospital when I was here, safe in the knowledge I was receiving the best treatment and care available.
“I am off all pain medication now – something I am incredibly proud of. Within six months of my diagnosis, I was given the all-clear.”