BUFFALO, NY-Just by looking at the words cancer pain patients used to describe their pain, researchers were able to correctly predict in 66% of cases which patients had neuropathic pain, Dr. Thomas Sist, of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, said in his poster presentation at the 8th World Congress on Pain.
The study involved a group of patients with cancer or chronic benign pain seen at the Roswell Park Pain Clinic. According to an independent clinical assessment, 122 had exclusively somatic pain, 41 visceral pain, and 42 neuropathic pain. Patients with mixed pain syndromes were excluded from the study.
When these diagnoses were compared with the patients' answers on the McGill Pain Questionnaire, the researchers found that the percentage of sensory words chosen to describe the pain was significantly higher for the neuropathic pain patients than for those with somatic and visceral pain.
"Patients with neuropathic pain were much more likely to use words like shooting, flashing, pricking, drilling, stabbing, sharp, and cutting-words that describe very distinct short-term phasic kinds of pain," Dr. Sist said.
Also, as would be expected, the neuropathic pain patients often used words suggesting a causalgic kind of pain, such as hot, burning, scalding, searing, smarting, and stinging.
"In fact, the hot, burning, scalding, searing words were the ones that, of all the words listed, most assuredly predicted the presence of neuropathic pain," he said.
Dr. Sist noted that the findings will be the basis for a larger study that will try to relate word selection more precisely to clinical findings, "the goal being to eventually provide the physician with some predictive capability when making pain diagnoses."