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Differences in pain, symptom burden, and opioid use among cancer pain patients with active versus non-active disease.
Abstracts that were granted an exception in accordance with ASCO's Conflict of Interest Policy are designated with a caret symbol (^).
Background: Many cancer survivors with non-active disease suffer with pain and other symptoms. This study investigated differences in symptoms and opioid use among cancer pain patients with active versus non-active disease. Methods: Data were obtained from 518 consecutive new patients seen at the Pain Management Center of MD Anderson Cancer Center from 01/01/09 to 06/30/09. Measures: Usual pain was rated on the Brief Pain Inventory. The Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) was used for ratings of fatigue, shortness of breath, poor appetite, depression, anxiety, drowsiness, difficulty thinking clearly and insomnia. Opioid use was calculated in morphine equivalency daily dose (MEDD) milligrams based on the sum of long- and short-acting opioids used per day. Analyses of Data: Independent samples t-tests were used to make comparisons between patients with active versus non-active disease on continuous variables. Chi-square tests were used to make comparisons across disease status on categorical variables. Results: 349 patients had active disease; 169 patients had non-active disease. Patients with active disease received significantly higher MEDD (125.6 ± 158.8 mg) versus patients with non-active disease (74.4 ± 87.0 mg). Patients with active disease reported significantly higher mean scores on fatigue, poor appetite, and drowsiness. Average weekly pain scores were comparable and moderately high for both groups of patients. Other symptoms and clinical characteristics were not significantly different across disease status. Conclusions: Plausible explanations for the higher opioid use and symptom burden among patients with active disease are cancer treatments and disease progression. A higher level of pain medication is often needed to achieve pain management during active treatment or following recent surgery. The finding of higher fatigue, poor appetite, and drowsiness among those with active disease is also consistent with the symptom burden expected from treatment. Although patients with active disease have a greater symptom burden and need for pain medication, there is a need for pain and symptom management among patients in the non-active disease phase of survivorship.