Risk Assessment and Monitoring of Patients with Cancer Receiving Opioid Therapy

Judith A. Paice*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The primary objective of this article is to assist oncologists and advanced practice prescribers to safely and effectively minimize risk when providing opioids for cancer pain relief. The majority of people with cancer are unlikely to misuse or divert opioid medications, yet the prescriber is often unaware of those who are at risk for these behaviors. To provide skillful pain management to each patient in the oncology setting, while limiting harm to the community, all prescribers must consider the potential for risk of misuse, addiction, or diversion. To minimize this risk to the greatest degree possible, it is imperative to include a thorough risk assessment when conducting a comprehensive pain evaluation. This information is then used to triage pain relief interventions based upon the degree of risk, including whether or not to incorporate opioids into the plan of care. Risk mitigation strategies, incorporating universal precautions, are implemented to assess, monitor, and reduce the potential for opioid misuse. Universal precautions include strategies such as the use of urine toxicology, state prescription drug monitoring programs, and agreements. Ongoing monitoring is conducted with the goal being to identify aberrant behaviors early so that they can be addressed and managed appropriately. Referral to addiction specialists may be warranted when substance use disorder precludes safe use of opioids. Implications for Practice: Throughout the trajectory of cancer care, opioid use is often indicated, and, in fact, it may be unethical to limit or prohibit the use of opioids when pain is severe. Oncologists face the significant challenge of providing cancer pain control that is safe and effective, while limiting individual risk for abuse or overdose and keeping the community free of diverted substances. Most oncology providers report inadequate training in chronic pain principles and in managing addiction. Risk assessment and mitigation measures can be incorporated within oncology care to enhance effective pain management while reducing the potential for harm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1294-1298
Number of pages5
JournalOncologist
Volume24
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

Keywords

  • Cancer
  • Opioids, Substance use disorder
  • Pain
  • Prescription drug monitoring
  • Risk mitigation
  • Urine toxicology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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