Pain in cancer survivors

Paul A. Glare*, Pamela S. Davies, Esmé Finlay, Amitabh Gulati, Dawn Lemanne, Natalie Moryl, Kevin C. Oeffinger, Judith A. Paice, Michael D. Stubblefield, Karen L. Syrjala

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

232 Scopus citations


Pain is a common problem in cancer survivors, especially in the first few years after treatment. In the longer term, approximately 5% to 10% of survivors have chronic severe pain that interferes with functioning. The prevalence is much higher in certain subpopulations, such as breast cancer survivors. All cancer treatment modalities have the potential to cause pain. Currently, the approach to managing pain in cancer survivors is similar to that for chronic cancer-related pain, pharmacotherapy being the principal treatment modality. Although it may be appropriate to continue strong opioids in survivors with moderate to severe pain, most pain problems in cancer survivors will not require them. Moreover, because more than 40% of cancer survivors now live longer than 10 years, there is growing concern about the long-term adverse effects of opioids and the risks of misuse, abuse, and overdose in the nonpatient population. As with chronic nonmalignant pain, multimodal interventions that incorporate nonpharmacologic therapies should be part of the treatment strategy for pain in cancer survivors, prescribed with the aim of restoring functionality, not just providing comfort. For patients with complex pain issues, multidisciplinary programs should be used, if available. New or worsening pain in a cancer survivor must be evaluated to determine whether the cause is recurrent disease or a second malignancy. This article focuses on patients with a history of cancer who are beyond the acute diagnosis and treatment phase and on common treatment-related pain etiologies. The benefits and harms of the various pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic options for pain management in this setting are reviewed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1739-1747
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number16
StatePublished - Jun 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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