Cancer-related pain is a pervasive concern among adolescent and young adults (AYA) with cancer and is an emerging long-term health concern. Few studies have examined the complex contributions to pain among AYA. We aimed to fill a gap by (1) identifying subgroups of AYA with distinct patterns of pain severity and interference over time and (2) explore possible predictors of these patterns.
Daily text messages over a 9-week period were used to model group-based trajectory analyses of pain severity and interference by identifying subgroups of AYA who experience common patterns of changes in pain. Demographic, medical, physical symptom burden, and psychological distress were examined as possible predictors of these patterns.
AYA were on average 16.93 years old and 2.5 years since diagnosis. Subgroups of AYA were identified for pain severity and interference over time: high variability (37.7%; 37.7%, respectively), consistent high pain (35.8%; 18.9%, respectively), and consistent low pain (26.4%; 43.4%, respectively). AYA with greater psychological distress were more likely to belong to the high consistent pain severity and interference groups. AYA with greater physical symptoms were more likely to belong to the high consistent pain interference group. No significant associations between demographic/medical characteristics and trajectory subgroups were found.
AYA with elevated physical and psychological symptoms were more likely to experience high consistent pain severity and pain interreference over time. Interventions aimed at reducing pain through focusing on teaching AYA how to alleviate physical symptoms and teaching coping skills to manage psychological distress may be beneficial.