Few would doubt that men and women differ in many ways. For women with chronic pain, those differences can affect how doctors treat their discomfort, according to
These women recently found support from committed scientists, as well as from other women in similar straits, at City of Hope. The institution hosted the Women in Pain Conference: Gender Matters, a day-long event featuring expert speakers, educational workshops and even a bit of improvisational acting. The event aimed to expose disparities in pain-control therapy for women and provide solutions for patients, caregivers and health-care professionals.
|Women in Pain conference participants (clockwise from left), Dianne Hoffmann, Terri Navarra, David Zimmerman and For Grace founders John Garrett and Cynthia Toussaint. (Photo by Darrin S. Joy)|
ABC7 television health reporter Denise Dador and Marcia Grant, R.N., D.N.Sc., director of the Department of Nursing Research and Education at City of Hope, opened the May 30 conference, and Grant introduced Cynthia Toussaint and her partner, John Garrett, whose For Grace foundation co-organized the conference with the Southern California Cancer Pain Initiative and City of Hope’s Department of Nursing Research and Education.
Toussaint gave a stirring account of her ordeal with reflex sympathetic dystrophy and fibromyalgia. A former ballerina and entertainer, Toussaint described a 13-year ordeal of debilitating pain, misdiagnoses and skeptical physicians who often refused to accept that her pain was physical. The experience prompted Toussaint and Garrett to champion for change through the For Grace foundation.
Academic leaders underscored the importance of Toussaint’s work. Judy Paice, Ph.D., R.N., and Dianne Hoffman, J.D., each detailed how pain diagnosis and treatment differ by gender. Paice, who directs the Cancer Pain Program at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, discussed why men and women may be treated differently for pain, and how that affects both genders. Hoffman, director of Law and Health Care at the University of Maryland Law School, addressed many of the sociological, cultural and legal issues women encounter. Both women identified a clear need for change in how health-care providers address pain-related care.
Actors also staged improvisational sketches illustrating encounters between patients and health-care providers. Attendees then tackled workshop topics from complementary and alternative pain therapies to inter-disciplinary management of cancer. Mary Bennett, M.F.A., of the American Pain Foundation, rounded out the day by encouraging attendees to be activists for improving the lives of women living with pain.
Said Garrett: “Pain is a universal experience; it’s going to happen to everyone at some time. Hopefully, you’ll find an understanding and compassionate world, because pain is now taken more seriously.”