Pain in Cancer Survivors: How to Manage

  • Judith A. PaiceEmail author
Palliative and Supportive Care (MP Davis, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Palliative and Supportive Care

Opinion statement

Managing pain in cancer survivors requires that oncologists understand the common painful syndromes that can occur from treatment or disease. Assessment no longer singularly focuses on pain characteristics (e.g., intensity, quality, location), now incorporating a strong focus on functional impairment and potential improvement that might occur with adequate treatment. Improvement in function is now the goal used to measure success. In addition, assessment must incorporate risk factors that might predispose patients to substance use disorder so that interventions can be implemented to mitigate this risk. Universal precautions are measures that help assess and ensure adherence to the treatment plan and may include the use of agreements, urine toxicology, and review of dispensing information derived from state prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). These are generally obtained annually for all individuals, although some states have instituted mandatory review of the PDMP whenever prescribing an opioid. For patients at moderate to high risk for misuse of opioids, where opioids are warranted for the treatment of their pain syndrome, universal precautions are instituted more frequently. Other measures may include prescribing a 1- to 2-week supply of medications if compulsive use leads the patient to running out of drug early, and in some cases, family members may be employed to dispense daily allotments of the medication. When opioids are no longer indicated, gradual tapering of the drug by approximately 10% per month is generally sufficient to prevent withdrawal symptoms and ensure patient acceptance.


Pain Cancer Opioids Chemotherapy Radiotherapy Surgery 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Hematology-Oncology, Feinberg School of MedicineNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA

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