• pain relief outcome;
  • cancer pain;
  • personalized pain goal;
  • pain goals;
  • pain relief



Cancer pain initiatives recommend using the personalized pain goal to tailor pain management. This study was conducted to examine the feasibility and stability of personalized pain goal, and how it compares to the clinical pain response criteria.


Records of 465 consecutive cancer patients seen in consultation at the Supportive Care Clinic were reviewed. Pain relief was assessed as clinical response (≥30% or ≥2 point pain reduction) and personalized pain goal response (pain ≤ personalized pain goal).


One hundred fifty-two (34%), 95 (21%), and 163 (37%) patients presented with mild (1-4), moderate (5-6), and severe (7-10) pain, respectively. Median age (59 years), males (52%), and advanced cancer status (84%) did not differ by pain category. Median personalized pain goal at initial clinic consult was 3 (interquartile range, 2-3), was similar across pain groups, and remained unchanged (P = .57) at follow-up (median, 14 days). Clinical response was higher among patients with severe pain (60%) as compared with moderate (40%) and mild pain (33%, P < .001). Personalized pain goal response was higher among patients with mild pain (63%) as compared with moderate (44%) and severe pain (27%, P < .001). By using personalized pain goal response as the gold standard for pain relief, the sensitivity of clinical response was highest (98%) among patients with severe pain, but it had low specificity (54%). In patients with mild pain, clinical response was most specific for pain relief (98%), but had low sensitivity (52%).


Personalized pain goal is a simple patient-reported outcome for pain goals. The majority of patients were capable of stating their desired level for pain relief. The median personalized pain goal was 3, and it was highly stable at follow-up assessment. Cancer 2012. © 2011 American Cancer Society.