Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 21, Issue 12, pp 3287–3292 | Cite as

Cancer pain management in an oncological ward in a comprehensive cancer center with an established palliative care unit

  • Sebastiano MercadanteEmail author
  • Costanza Guccione
  • Simona Di Fatta
  • Valentina Alaimo
  • Giovanna Prestia
  • Rosanna Bellingardo
  • Vittorio Gebbia
  • Antonino Giarratano
  • Alessandra Casuccio
Original Article



This survey was performed to draw information on pain prevalence, intensity, and management from a sample of patients who were admitted to an oncologic center where a palliative care unit (PCU) has been established for 13 years.


Cross-sectional survey in an oncological department performed 1 day per month for six consecutive months.


Of the 385 patients, 69.1, 19.2, 8.6, and 3.1 % had no pain, mild, moderate, and severe pain, respectively. Inpatients and patients with a low Karnofsky score showed higher levels of pain intensity (p < 0.0005). One hundred twenty-eight patients with pain or receiving analgesics were analyzed for pain management index (PMI). Only a minority of patients had negative PMI score, which was statistically associated with inpatient admission (p = 0.011). Fifty of these 128 patients had breakthrough pain (BTP), and all of them were receiving some medication for BTP.


It is likely that the presence of PCU team providing consultation, advices, and cultural pressure, other than offering admissions for difficult cases had a positive impact on the use of analgesics, as compared with previous similar surveys performed in oncological setting, where a PCU was unavailable. This information confirms the need of the presence of a PCU in a high volume oncological department.


Chemotherapy Opioid Pain 



This paper did not receive any support. The authors have declared no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastiano Mercadante
    • 1
    • 4
    • 7
    Email author
  • Costanza Guccione
    • 2
  • Simona Di Fatta
    • 3
  • Valentina Alaimo
    • 4
    • 7
  • Giovanna Prestia
    • 1
  • Rosanna Bellingardo
    • 1
  • Vittorio Gebbia
    • 5
  • Antonino Giarratano
    • 4
    • 7
  • Alessandra Casuccio
    • 6
  1. 1.Anesthesia & Intensive Care and Pain Relief & Palliative Care Unit, La Maddalena Cancer Center, and Palliative MedicineUniversity of PalermoPalermoItaly
  2. 2.Faculty of PharmacyUniversity of PalermoPalermoItaly
  3. 3.Medical SchoolUniversity of PalermoPalermoItaly
  4. 4.Anesthesia and Intensive Care UnitOspedale GiglioCefalùItaly
  5. 5.Department of OncologyLa Maddalena Cancer CenterPalermoItaly
  6. 6.Department of Experimental Biomedicine and Clinical NeuroscienceUniversity of PalermoPalermoItaly
  7. 7.Chair of AnesthesiologyUniversity of PalermoPalermoItaly

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