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Age Differences in the Presence of Pain and Psychological Distress in Younger and Older Cancer Patients

Krok, Jessica L. PhD; Baker, Tamara A. PhD; McMillan, Susan C. PhD

Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing: April 2013 - Volume 15 - Issue 2 - p 107–113
doi: 10.1097/NJH.0b013e31826bfb63
Feature Articles

Psychosocial factors impacting the overall quality of life for cancer patients may differ between younger and older adults. The objective of this study was to examine the differences between younger and older adults in reports of cancer pain, pain severity, and psychological distress. Symptom data from the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale were collected from younger and older adults (N = 232) receiving outpatient services at a comprehensive cancer center (radiation, chemotherapy). Results showed that younger patients had higher reports of pain and psychological distress compared with the older adults. Multivariate analyses showed that, for younger patients, those who had more functional limitations were more likely to report pain. For older patients, being female, having functional limitations, receiving palliative treatment, irritability, and religious activity predicted a greater likelihood of reporting pain. These findings indicate that older cancer patients have less distress than younger cancer patients, suggesting that older adults may have more effective coping mechanisms to help them better manage their pain. These results endorse the importance of addressing the unique psychological concerns of younger and older cancer patients, while effectively managing their pain.

Jessica L. Krok, PhD, is Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Ohio State University, Columbus.

Tamara A. Baker, PhD, is Associate Professor, School of Aging Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa.

Susan C. McMillan, PhD, is Professor, College of Nursing, University of South Florida, Tampa.

Address correspondence to Jessica L. Krok, PhD, Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Ohio State University, 1590 N High St, Suite 525, Columbus, OH 43201 (

The authors have no conflict of interest to disclose.

© 2013 The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association