PURPOSE: Pain is prevalent among patients with cancer, yet pain management patterns in outpatient oncology are poorly understood.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: A total of 3,123 ambulatory patients with invasive cancer of the breast, prostate, colon/rectum, or lung were enrolled onto this prospective study regardless of phase of care or stage of disease. At initial assessment and 4 to 5 weeks later, patients completed a 25-item measure of pain, functional interference, and other symptoms. Providers recorded analgesic prescribing. The pain management index was calculated to assess treatment adequacy.
RESULTS: Of the 3,023 patients we identified to be at risk for pain, 2,026 (67%) reported having pain or requiring analgesics at initial assessment; of these 2,026 patients, 670 (33%) were receiving inadequate analgesic prescribing. We found no difference in treatment adequacy between the initial and follow-up visits. Multivariable analysis revealed that the odds of a non-Hispanic white patient having inadequate pain treatment were approximately half those of a minority patient after adjusting for other explanatory variables (odds ratio, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.37 to 0.70; P = .002). Other significant predictors of inadequate pain treatment were having a good performance status, being treated at a minority treatment site, and having nonadvanced disease without concurrent treatment.
CONCLUSION: Most outpatients with common solid tumors must confront issues related to pain and the use of analgesics. There is significant disparity in pain treatment adequacy, with the odds of undertreatment twice as high for minority patients. These findings persist over 1 month of follow-up, highlighting the complexity of these problems.
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