7 Reasons for Inadequate Cancer-Related Pain Management


Cancer-related pain can develop from the cancer itself or from cancer treatments. Unfortunately, some individuals with cancer do not receive adequate pain management as part of their care.

Here are seven reasons why inadequate pain management may occur.

  1. Health care professionals may not ask about pain levels. This may happen because of simple factors, such as time constraints, or more complicated factors, such as the health care provider’s confidence and familiarity with pain management. Many primary care physicians and oncologists have limited formal training devoted to pain management.
  2. Pain can be a difficult subject to broach. Some people may think they are bothering their doctor by talking about pain. They may mistakenly think they are complaining or that talking about pain is a sign of weakness. Others may be afraid that pain means their cancer is worsening, so they avoid the subject altogether.
  3. Some pain medications may be prohibitively expensive. Cancer treatments, including pain medications, can be very expensive. Individuals may be embarrassed to discuss costs and finances with health care providers to find more reasonably-priced options.
  4. Medication side effects may be a concern. Since many pain medications have potential side effects, a person may assume it is not possible to achieve pain relief without experiencing side effects. This assumption may make them less willing to seek pain relief.
  5. The fear of addiction to pain medications may be an issue. Fear of addiction to pain medications may prevent an individual from taking medication as prescribed. This may prevent the person from achieving adequate pain relief.
  6. Rules and regulations may make it more difficult to obtain pain medications. Physicians are often required to take extra steps to prescribe certain controlled substances. Insurance companies may require extra justification for the use of or higher quantities or dosages of certain pain medications. These factors often delay or impede the ability to obtain pain medication.
  7. Health care disparities may affect pain management. Individuals who are part of a racial or ethnic minority are less likely to receive adequate pain assessment and management than Caucasians. In addition, pharmacies in low-income or minority areas may not have a sufficient supply of pain medications.

Understanding these barriers to adequate pain management can help the medical community begin to address cancer-related pain management.

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