Objective. This monograph is intended to clarify the clinical problem of chronic pain in cancer patients.
Design. A pertinent literature review on chronic pain syndromes in cancer patients was undertaken using Medline. Further, the treatment strategies for cancer versus chronic pain are contrasted and clarified.
Results. With increasing cancer survivorship come new challenges in patient care. In the United States, the cancer-related death rate has dropped by 1.1% per year from 1993–2002. Seventy-five percent of children and two out of three adults will survive cancer, whereas 50 years ago just one out of four survived. The net effect of these trends and opportunities is a large and rapidly growing population of persons living longer with cancer and/or as cancer survivors. While agreement exists on the best strategies for assessment and treatment of most acute cancer pain syndromes, little consensus exists on the treatment of chronic pain in the patient with slowly progressive cancer or the cancer survivor.
Conclusions. The landscape of “cancer pain” is shifting quickly into a chronic pain situation in many instances, thereby blurring previous lines of distinction in treatment strategies most suited for “chronic” versus “malignant” pain. Adopting chronic pain treatment strategies including pharmacologic and other pain control techniques, rehabilitation care, and psychological coping strategies may lead to optimal outcomes. Lastly, as cancer evolves into a chronic illness, with co-morbid conditions, recurrent cancer, and treatment toxicities from repeated antineoplastic therapies, pain management challenges in the oncologic patient continue to increase in complexity.