Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 25, Issue 11, pp 3505–3514 | Cite as

Needs assessment of primary care physicians in the management of chronic pain in cancer survivors

  • Ronald Chow
  • Kevin Saunders
  • Howard Burke
  • Andre Belanger
  • Edward ChowEmail author
Original Article



Cancer patients live longer with effective anti-cancer therapy and supportive care. About 30% of cancer survivors (non-palliative cancer patients who completed treatment) suffer from chronic pain, which will be managed by their primary care physician (PCP). The aim of this study was to assess practice patterns and treatment barriers in the management of chronic pain in cancer survivors among PCPs.


A survey using a 16-item questionnaire was sent to PCPs across Canada.


A total of 162 responses were collected. The majority of participants were in group (59%) or solo (33%) practice, with an average of 25 years of clinical experience. Seventy-one percent of PCPs were practicing in communities of 10,000 to 100,000 people. Respondents were treating approximately 10 cancer survivors with chronic pain per month. The majority of PCPs (59%) reported having “little knowledge” or “some understanding” of chronic pain management in cancer survivors. They did not usually refer these patients to other specialists. Patient comorbidities (79%), pain medication side effects (78%), previous pain treatment (76%), effect of pain on daily functioning (75%), and drug interactions (71%) were identified as factors that guided PCP treatment choices. Major barriers included medication cost (54%), concerns about opioid abuse (51%), and patient non-compliance (46%). PCPs indicated that treatment guidelines (74%) and knowledge of pharmacological (64%) and non-pharmacological (62%) treatment options would help their chronic pain management.


Most PCPs report a lack of knowledge in the management of chronic pain in cancer survivors but are keen to receive medical education on treatment options and clinical practice guidelines.


Cancer Survivor Chronic pain Primary care physician Survey Needs assessment 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The results of the needs assessment reported here, as well as the writing support provided by CME Solutions, were made possible with the financial support of Purdue Pharma (Canada). All results were obtained independently of the financial sponsor. The authors have full control of all primary data.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald Chow
    • 1
  • Kevin Saunders
    • 2
  • Howard Burke
    • 3
    • 4
  • Andre Belanger
    • 5
  • Edward Chow
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Odette Cancer Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences CentreUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Medical Director Wellness InstituteSeven Oaks General HospitalWinnipegCanada
  3. 3.Lakeridge Health CorporationBowmansvilleCanada
  4. 4.Department of Family and Community MedicineUniversity of Toronto and Queen’s UniversityTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Hôtel-Dieu de LévisCourcelotteCanada
  6. 6.Department of Radiation Oncology, Odette Cancer CentreSunnybrook Health Sciences CentreTorontoCanada

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