Examining Chronic Cancer Pain in Survivors

Recent data from the National Cancer Institute suggest that more than 60% of people diagnosed with cancer will be alive within 5 years of their diagnosis, and about one in three individuals will experience cancer at some point in their life. Clinical studies have shown that many patients with cancer also experience significant pain, either from the cancer itself or from the treatments that are required to eliminate the disease. Most cancer survivors who have pain report that it is relieved only some of the time. The consequences of poorly treated pain are profound, ranging from poor sleep and mood to reduced function and even an increased risk of death. As Americans continue to age at an increasing pace, the incidence of pain accompanying cancer is expected to rise. The healthcare system is likely to be burdened substantially because of these important quality-of-life (QOL) issues. Trending Pain in Cancer Survivors In the May 1, 2011 issue of Cancer, my colleagues and I from the University of Michigan Health System published a study that examined cancer-related chronic pain and its impact on QOL in African-American and Caucasian cancer survivors. The study, which was sponsored by the Lance Armstrong Foundation, focused on current and past pain, health, and QOL in survivors of breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer, as well as multiple myeloma. About one in five cancer survivors (19.5%) experienced current pain, and two in five (42.6%) reported pain within the past 2 years since being diagnosed with their cancer. The pain was worse for African Americans and women than for Caucasians and men. “When necessary and appropriate, both pharmacologic and...