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Nearly 5.4 Million Cancer Survivors Suffer From Chronic Pain

Jaime Rosenberg
According to the researchers, these rates are nearly double that seen in the general population, which suggests the presence of unmet needs among the survivorship community.
Chronic pain is one of the most common long-term effects of cancer treatment and is associated with lower quality of life, lower adherence to treatment, and higher healthcare costs. According to a new research letter, as the number of cancer survivors continues to grow rapidly in the United States, 5.39 million cancer survivors suffer from chronic pain.

In a study published in JAMA Oncology, researchers reported that about 1 in 3 cancer survivors reported having chronic pain. One in 6 reported suffering from high-impact chronic pain that restricts daily functioning, representing 2.51 million survivors. According to the researchers, these rates are nearly double that of the general population, which suggests the presence of unmet needs among the survivorship community.

These rates were determined from data extracted from the National Health Interview Survey from 2016 to 2017. The researchers identified 4526 cancer survivors from 59,770 survey participants. Among these survivors, 1648 (34.6%) reported having chronic pain and 768 (16.1%) reported having high-impact chronic pain.

There were no significant differences in the prevalence of chronic pain or high-impact chronic pain based on age, sex, marital status, or region. However, there was a higher prevalence of both chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain among survivors with less than a high school education (39.2% for chronic pain, 18.5% for high impact chronic pain), low household income (44.6% and 22.8%, respectively), public insurance for those aged 18 to 64 years (43.6% and 27.1%, respectively), and no paid employment (38.5% and 20.4%, respectively).

“Because socioeconomic status and employment are associated with insurance coverage and access to care in the United States, the patterns of chronic pain that we observed in cancer survivors may be explained by barriers to cancer care and pain management as well as by the type and extent of cancer treatment received,” wrote the researchers.

The authors noted that the absence of significant differences in pain based on sex contrasts the general perception of higher prevalence of pain in women compared with men. This could be due to insufficient statistical power from the limited sample size or because cancer-induced pain in both sex groups might have diluted the relative difference, they wrote.

Across cancer types, the prevalence of chronic pain was highest among survivors of bone (54%), kidney (52.3%), throat-pharynx (47.9%), and uterine (44.5%) cancers. Prevalence of chronic pain and high impact chronic pain did not significantly differ based on time since diagnosis.

Reference:

Jiang C, Wang H, Wang Q, et al. Prevalence of chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain in cancer survivors in the United States [published online June 20, 2019]. JAMA Oncol. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.1439.

 
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