Pain in Cancer Survivors: How to Manage

Judith Paice*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number48
JournalCurrent treatment options in oncology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • Cancer
  • Chemotherapy
  • Opioids
  • Pain
  • Radiotherapy
  • Surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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