Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 21, Issue 9, pp 2557–2563 | Cite as

A survey of Canadian cancer patients’ perspectives on the characteristics and treatment of breakthrough pain

  • Gillian Bedard
  • Philippa HawleyEmail author
  • Liying Zhang
  • Marissa Slaven
  • Pierre Gagnon
  • Stuart Bisland
  • Margaret Bennett
  • Francois Tardif
  • Edward Chow
Original Article



Breakthrough pain is defined as a transient exacerbation of pain that occurs spontaneously or in response to a trigger despite stable and controlled background pain. The purpose of this study was to explore Canadian patients’ awareness of and experience with breakthrough pain in cancer (BTPc).


Four Canadian cancer centers participated in a non-interventional survey recruiting cancer patients who experienced breakthrough pain. These patients were asked about their pain, its impact on functioning, current management and interest in new treatments of BTPc.


Ninety-four Canadian cancer patients participated in this study, with 96 % stating that cancer pain impacted their daily living with over half unable to go to work or shopping. Fifty percent of patients said that an episode of BTPc lasted greater than 60 minutes, with the pain score being on average 7.8/10, impacting normal work (7.2/10) and general activity (7.1/10). Only 35 % of patients were very satisfied with the speed of relief of their medications. Those who did not take their breakthrough pain medication for every episode stated that was because the pain was not always severe (37 %), or they were afraid of becoming tolerant (23 %) or addicted (12 %). Patients stated that the most important features of a new treatment for BTPc were the ability to relieve pain completely (47 %), and quickly (43 %). Patients expressed willingness to try transmucosal products (80 %) or nasal products (59 %).


Breakthrough cancer pain in Canadian cancer patients greatly impacts their daily lives. There is room for improvement in the management of BTPc, and the majority of patients would be willing to try new treatments.


Breakthrough pain Cancer Patients’ perspectives 



This study was funded by Takeda Canada Inc. We thank all survey participants and research assistants.

Conflict of interest

This study was funded by Takeda Canada Inc. The authors have full control of all primary data and agree to allow the journal to review their data if requested.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gillian Bedard
    • 1
  • Philippa Hawley
    • 2
    • 8
    Email author
  • Liying Zhang
    • 1
  • Marissa Slaven
    • 3
  • Pierre Gagnon
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  • Stuart Bisland
    • 3
  • Margaret Bennett
    • 1
  • Francois Tardif
    • 4
    • 6
  • Edward Chow
    • 1
  1. 1.Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Odette Cancer CentreUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Palliative Medicine, BC Cancer AgencyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Palliative Care, Juravinski Cancer Center Hamilton Health Science CorporationMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  4. 4.Psycho-oncologie, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de QuebecUniversity of QuebecQuebec CityCanada
  5. 5.Laval University Cancer Research CenterQuebec CityCanada
  6. 6.Maison Michel-SarrazinQuebec CityCanada
  7. 7.Faculty of PharmacyLaval UniversityQuebec CityCanada
  8. 8.Pain and Symptom Management/Palliative CareVancouver Centre, BC Cancer AgencyVancouverCanada

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