A local doctor works to help patients keep their pain in check as they live with a disease that can’t be cured or have a condition that doctors are working on curing. He says palliative care can help mitigate the symptoms to make their lives a little bit better.

Dr. Richard Brittingham, an internal medicine physician and a certified palliative care physician at Comanche County Memorial Hospital says many people don’t understand what palliative care is.

“Palliative care is not designed to cure any disease. Palliative care is designed to suppress symptoms.”

He says while cancer doctors can treat cancer, many of those patients are experiencing pain, and that’s where a palliative care doctor can help.

“I have patients that come to me with pain levels at 8 or 9 out of 10, and within a very short period of time, I can get their levels down to a 2 or 3.”

Dr. Brittingham says that can make a big difference for someone dealing with daily pain and a disease.

“It makes a person’s life better. They have a better quality of life, more enjoyment, more joy out of life, more joy than pain.”

Multiple people are involved in the person’s care, like a doctor, nurse, chaplain, and social worker.

“We’re trying to approach the patient’s needs from multiple different angles to achieve the best result for them. The most effective pain, or symptom control with the least amount of side effects.”

He says some people associate it with hospice, but that’s not the case. Dr. Brittingham says he has more palliative care patients than hospice patients. While some of his patient’s transition to hospice, not all of them do.

“If you have any life-limiting disease, it doesn’t have to be cancer, you don’t have to be on your death bed, if you have a life-limiting condition and you have uncontrolled pain, palliative care is the service for you because we can get your pain under control.”

Dr. Brittingham says he hopes people realize palliative care services are there, they don’t have to be in pain…it can be controlled, and that people should get involved earlier in the course of their disease.

“To me, it’s very rewarding to see someone in pain, and within a week they’re out of pain. To me, that’s miraculous.”

He says any doctor can provide palliative care services, but many aren’t comfortable with the levels of opioids and doses that are involved. Dr. Brittingham says that’s why they send their patients to him.

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