LOS ANGELES--Cancer patients with breakthrough pain episodes report more severe pain than those who do not have breakthrough pain, a study from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has shown.
"Episodes of breakthrough pain must be addressed since they can result in increased pain intensity and psychological distress," Russell K. Portenoy, MD, said at the American Pain Society meeting. He defined breakthrough pain as episodes of excruciating pain superimposed on otherwise well-controlled pain.
In Dr. Portenoy's study of more than 150 patients with cancer-related pain at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, those patients with breakthrough pain reported significantly greater baseline pain, and the severity of their pain was greater than that experienced by patients who did not have episodes of breakthrough pain.
More than 80% of the patients with breakthrough pain reported pain that was present either constantly or frequently, compared with just over 50% of patients without breakthrough pain who reported pain present at the same level.
Those patients with breakthrough pain used more supplemental pain medication than did patients without breakthrough pain, although there was no difference in their round-the-clock opioid dosage.
Compared with patients who did not report breakthrough pain, the patients with breakthrough pain showed significant impairments in psychosocial functioning as a result of the pain; increased interference in activity, mood, movement, and sleep; and more impairment in social relationships, occupational functioning, and general enjoyment of life.
They also had significantly more symptoms of both depression and anxiety, and significantly more negative thoughts about their pain in general and, specifically, about themselves and their ability to function effectively in a psychosocial context.