Art and Symptom Management : HEARTS IN HEALTH

Art and Symptom Management

by Bivi Franco on 02/10/16

Imagine being told that you are fighting an unknown enemy. Imagine that you have no idea what that enemy will do or if you can even beat it. Imagine that enemy threatening the way you live your life, whether your friends abandon you or not, and the way you see the world. Now imagine that enemy lives inside of you, and the only way to get rid of it is to essentially "kill" parts of your body. This is the reality of a cancer diagnosis, and with that cancer diagnosis is the knowledge you will come face to face with pain.

Next to confronting one's own mortality, "pain is one of the most feared aspects of cancer" and one of the most difficult things to manage (Goodwin 1637). Unlike other forms of chronic pain, most symptoms of pain in cancer patients are directly related to the treatment they are receiving for their cancer. According to research, "It has long been recognized that untreated or undertreated pain is common…with little evidence of recent improvement" (1637). So what are some of the symptoms of these life-saving treatments cancer patients undergo? According to the study "Pain in Cancer Survivors," chronic pain syndromes cancer patients experience include phantom pain, chest pain or tightness, nerve pain, muscle cramps or spasms, carpal tunnel, osteoporosis, dry or burning eyes, ulcers, and a host of other symptoms (Glare 1741). With such a real problem in identifying and managing cancer patients' pain, can art assist in providing some relief?

More and more doctors are beginning to see the benefits of art in their patients' recovery and the ability to provide their patients person-centered pain management. For many cancer patients, the difficulty of trying to express what they feel in their body is just as much of a burden as the pain itself. Art provides patients a vehicle to express their physical pain in ways that words cannot and in ways that doctors can better understand. As Marjana Bras states, "Art can…be one of the best forms of educating medical professionals and others involved in treatment and decision-making on pain" (296). With open channels of communication between doctor and patient, the risk of pain going untreated diminishes, and doctors can make more informed decisions in their patient's pain treatment plans. 

Feel Beautiful Today agrees and offers Arts in Health programs in order for cancer patients to live a more full life. With the new year, a brand new program called Through My Window is rolling out to provide patients with the opportunity to both explore and express the pain they are feeling. It is our hope that through this art program, doors will open for better communication between doctors and patients as to what is needed to better manage pain symptoms.



Braš M, Dordevic V, Janjanin M. Person-centered pain management - science and art. Croatian   

   Medical Journal. 2013; 54(3): 296-300.

Glare PA, Davies PS, Finlay E, et al: Pain in cancer survivors. J Clin Oncol. 2014; 32(16): 


Goodwin PJ, Bruera E, Stockler M: Pain in patients with cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2014 Jun 1; 32(16): 


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