Pain, neuropathic symptoms, and physical and mental well-being in persons with cancer

Cindy Tofthagen, Susan C. McMillan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background: Neuropathic pain is present in at least 25% to 40% of people with cancer pain and is thought to be more difficult to control than other types of cancer-related pain. Objective: The purpose of this study was to explore differences in the experience of cancer patients who describe their pain using neuropathic descriptors compared with those who do not. Methods: A secondary analysis of data from 234 outpatients from a large National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in west central Florida was conducted to identify differences in pain, pain interference, symptoms, health-related quality of life, and depression between the 2 groups. Results: Patients with numbness, tingling, or electric-like sensations reported higher levels of current pain (P =.001), pain at its worst (P =.001), pain on average (P =.019), pain at its least (P =.008), and pain interference (P <.001). They reported problems with dizziness/lightheadedness significantly more often (P =.004) and also reported more severe problems with concentration (P =.047) and poorer physical (P =.019) and mental health (P =.024), although no differences in depressive symptoms were found. Conclusions: The results of this study indicate that cancer patients with numbness, tingling, or electric-like sensations have significantly higher levels of pain and pain interference and lower health-related quality of life than do patients without these symptoms. Implications For Practice: These results highlight the ongoing need for research evaluating methods of treating neuropathic pain, education regarding assessment and management of neuropathic pain, and aggressive efforts to relieve neuropathic pain in oncology settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)436-444
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Nursing
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • Neuropathy
  • Pain
  • Performance
  • Quality of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Oncology(nursing)


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