Supportive Care in Cancer

, 18:57 | Cite as

Cancer pain as the presenting problem in emergency departments: incidence and related factors

  • Shu-Ching Tsai
  • Li-Ni Liu
  • Siew-Tzuh Tang
  • Jih-Chang Chen
  • Mei-Ling Chen
Original Article


Goals of work

Since emergency departments (ED) are designed to manage people with urgent and life-threatening conditions, cancer patients presenting with pain may not receive the appropriate care in the ED. The purpose of this study was to identify the incidence and factors related to ED visits by cancer patients with pain complaints.

Materials and methods

Medical charts selected by stratified random sampling were retrospectively reviewed to obtain information about ED visits by cancer patients during a 1-year period. The sample included 1,179 ED visits by 1,026 cancer patients.

Main results

Pain was the most common reason for ED visits by cancer patients. The incidence of ED visits for pain as a presenting problem was 27.8%. The 72-h ED return-visit rate was 8.2% for cancer patients who visited the ED with pain complaints. Patients with gastrointestinal and genitourinary cancers were more likely to visit the ED for pain. Patients who had received radiation therapy were less likely to visit the ED for pain.


Effective cancer pain management programs need to be developed and tested to reduce ED visits by cancer patients with pain. More research is needed to explore why cancer patients with pain visit the ED.


Emergency department visit Cancer patients Chief complaint Pain 72-h emergency department return visit 



We thank Ms. Yu-Mei Tseng for reviewing the medical charts and Ms. Claire Baldwin for editing the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shu-Ching Tsai
    • 1
  • Li-Ni Liu
    • 2
    • 3
  • Siew-Tzuh Tang
    • 2
  • Jih-Chang Chen
    • 1
  • Mei-Ling Chen
    • 2
  1. 1.Emergency DepartmentChang Gung Memorial HospitalTao-YuanTaiwan
  2. 2.Graduate Institute of NursingChang Gung UniversityTao-YuanTaiwan
  3. 3.Graduate Institute of Clinical Medical SciencesChang Gung UniversityTao-YuanTaiwan

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