Purpose of review
Cancer pain remains inadequately treated, despite internationally accepted management guidelines and a myriad of treatment options. Risk factors for undertreatment are reviewed, along with possible explanations. Recent studies documenting the scope of the problem as well as investigating solutions are discussed with clinical-practice recommendations outlined.
Women over 65 years of age representative of a cultural minority, with earlier stage disease, cared for at home, and with high-school education or less are at highest risk of having uncontrolled cancer pain. Optimal treatment is impeded by patients' maladaptive beliefs, nonadherence, underreporting or miscommunication with caregivers; from a healthcare provider perspective, it may be due to inadequate assessment, documentation, knowledge, and communication. Emerging data support the vital influence of lay caregivers on appropriate pain management. Although home-education programs may decrease pain and improve quality of life, there are also less intensive approaches deliverable by individuals to holistically address pain.
Prospective study of barriers to both delivery and receipt of adequate pain management is needed, as the majority of published literature is based on survey studies. Treatment must be individualized based on clinical circumstances and patient wishes, with the goal of maximizing function and quality of life.