• Cancer Pain;
  • Racial Disparities;
  • Ethnic Minorities;
  • Communication;
  • Physician–Patient Relations;
  • Patient Activation


Purpose.  Minority patients with cancer experience worse control of their pain than do their white counterparts. This disparity may, in part, reflect more miscommunication between minority patients and their physicians. Therefore, we examined whether patient coaching could reduce disparities in pain control in a secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial.

Methods.  Sixty-seven English-speaking adult cancer outpatients, including 15 minorities, with moderate pain over the prior 2 weeks were randomly assigned to the experimental (N = 34) or control group (N = 33). Experimental patients received a 20-minute individualized education and coaching session to increase knowledge of pain self-management, to redress personal misconceptions about pain treatment, and to rehearse an individually scripted patient–physician dialog about pain control. The control group received standardized information on controlling pain. Data on average pain (0–10 scale) were collected at enrollment and 2-week follow-up.

Results.  At enrollment, minority patients had significantly more pain than their white counterparts (6.0 vs 5.0, P = 0.05). At follow-up, minorities in the control group continued to have more pain (6.4 vs 4.7, P = 0.01), whereas in the experimental group, disparities were eliminated (4.0 vs 4.3, P = 0.71). The effect of the intervention on reducing disparities was significant (P = 0.04).

Conclusions.  Patient coaching offers promise as a means of reducing racial/ethnic disparities in pain control. Larger studies are needed to validate these findings and to explore possible mechanisms.