Pharmacological management of cancer-related pain

Eric E. Prommer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Background: Pain occurs in 50% of patients with cancer at the time of diagnosis, and nearly 80% of patients with advanced stage cancer have moderate to severe pain. Assessment of pain requires the health care professional to measure pain intensity, delineate opioid responsiveness, and clarify the impact of pain on a patient’s psychological, social, spiritual, and existential domains. To this end, the World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a 3-step pain ladder to help the health care professional effectively manage pain, classifying pain intensity according to severity and recommending analgesic agents based on their strength. Methods: Health care professionals should follow the WHO guidelines to manage cancer-related pain in their patients. With regard to opioids, dosing, equianalgesic conversions, the management of adverse events, and the identification of new agents are discussed. Integrating adjuvant analgesics and interventional pain techniques into the management of cancer-related pain is also discussed. Results: The WHO analgesic ladder is an effective tool for managing cancer-related pain. Successful pain management in patients with cancer relies upon the health care professional to pay attention to detail, especially during the introduction of new drugs and in identifying potential adverse events. Health care professionals must assess opioid responsiveness to determine whether adjuvant analgesics should also play a role in a patient’s treatment plan. Conclusion: Adherence to the WHO pain ladder and understanding proper use of interventional pain techniques complement the pharmacological management of cancer-related pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)412-425
Number of pages14
JournalCancer Control
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology


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