Oncology Professionals Can Affect the Opioid Epidemic

March 17, 2019
Patrick I. Borgen, MD

Many patients with cancer are prescribed opioids to manage post-surgical pain, putting oncology professionals in a prime position to affect the current epidemic.

Thousands of Americans are predicted to die in 2019 because of opioid overdose, and many of them were first introduced to this type of drug through a prescription from their healthcare provider, explained Patrick I. Borgen, MD, chair of the Department of Surgery and director of breast cancer at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Over 1 million breast cancer operations occur each year, putting the oncology community in a prime position to directly affect the number of opioids being prescribed, Borgen said. But first, clinicians need to admit that there is a problem, and that they have been overprescribing opioids for years. Then, they must realize that there are other non-opioid agents that can effectively manage post-surgical pain.