Minority patients with cancer are at risk for undertreatment of cancer-related pain. Most studies of patient-related barriers to pain control have surveyed primarily non-Hispanic Caucasian patients. The purpose of the current study was to explore barriers to optimal pain management among African-American and Hispanic patients with cancer through the use of structured patient interviews. Structured interviews allowed the authors to probe for previously unidentified barriers to pain management in these populations.
Thirty-one socioeconomically disadvantaged minority patients with cancer (14 African-American patients and 17 Hispanic patients) who had cancer-related pain completed structured interviews that assessed three main content areas: information and communication regarding cancer pain, treatment of cancer pain, and the meaning of cancer pain.
The African-American and Hispanic patients reported severe pain and many concerns about pain management. The majority of patients in both ethnic groups expressed a belief in stoicism and concerns about possible addiction to opioid medications and the development of tolerance. The patients described their physicians as the most frequent and trusted source of information about cancer pain. However, patients also reported difficulties with communication and a reluctance to complain of pain.
The reported barriers to pain management indicate that socioeconomically disadvantaged African-American and Hispanic patients can benefit from educational interventions on cancer pain that dispel myths about opioids and teach patients to communicate assertively about their pain with their physicians and nurses. Cancer 2002;94:2295–304. © 2002 American Cancer Society.