More Than 5 Million U.S. Cancer Survivors Deal With Chronic Pain

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THURSDAY, June 20, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- One-third of U.S. cancer survivors have chronic pain, and 1 in 6 have levels that restrict their daily activities, a new study finds.

"The prevalence of chronic pain and high impact chronic pain among cancer survivors in our study was almost double that in the general population, suggesting there are important unmet needs in the large and growing community of people with a history of cancer," said co-author Xuesong Han, an American Cancer Society (ACS) investigator.

Her team analyzed 2016-17 National Health Interview Survey data for more than 4,500 cancer survivors and found that nearly 35% had chronic pain, defined as pain on most days or every day for six months. That translates to about 5.4 million people nationwide.

And 16% had pain so severe that their everyday activities were limited. That's roughly 2.5 million cancer survivors nationwide.

Rates of chronic pain and high impact chronic pain were highest among patients with less than a high school education (39% and 19%, respectively); low income (45% and 23%); 18- to 64-year-olds on public insurance (44% and 27%, respectively); and those without a paid job (39% and 20%).

"Because socioeconomic status and employment are associated with insurance coverage and access to care in the United States, the patterns of chronic pain that we observed in cancer survivors may be explained by barriers to cancer care and pain management as well as by the type and extent of cancer treatment received," Han said in an ACS news release.

Researchers found no significant link between type of pain and length of time since cancer diagnosis, according to the study. It was published June 20 in the journal JAMA Oncology.

Chronic pain is one of the most common long-term effects of cancer treatment and has been tied to lower quality of life, poor adherence to treatment, and higher health care costs, according to the ACS.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on cancer survival.

SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, June 20, 2019

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3 Comments

Fri Jun 28, 2019 05:28 AM

This article is so true. I have read about it in different medical journals and cancer sites.  However I wonder if there is a soul in the world who could have enough compassion to help me. I have suffered with severe pain every day since I had a "whopping dose" of radiation to my pelvis after the discovery of a tumor, a sarcoma in my glute muscle and hip joint.  Nobody will help me.  I had a hip replacement 5 years cancer free which helped my pain and stupidly I thought my life could go back to normal after that and I quit pain managment.  I went on suboxone to taper off opiods and and was able to do it within a few weeks. I received a certified letter from my pain managment clinic verifying I left in good standing and of my own accord. Here in Tennessee the laws are so strict, that after a y ear and and half when I could no longer take the pain that had improved but was still severe, no clinic would take me back. Apparently they see me as a chronic patient and the state board frowns on that.  So despite being a good perso who has spent my life as a social worker going the extra mile for each and every patient, I am left to suffer and sit alone rather than have a life. Why?  Clinic after clinic has denied me despite my certified letter.  I have three severe major pain issues including desinigration of muscle and bone in my glute from my radiation ( my right butt cheek is gone and ow 7 years out hurts so bad my dog barely touched it and I yelled out in pain; fused, degeneration of the lower back with sponkalitis, chronic tendonitis and bursitis, and on and on.  I cannot walk far and now rarely leave the house.  Can nobody have enough compassion to at least help me relieve the pain enought to keep my job.  I have worked since age 17 as a social worker and have always had a worker bee mentality.  My energetic personality and unconditional love for the unloveable is there but no good when I can't stand the pain of walking or sitting in the car.  I just quit my job of 8 years for fear of getting fired because I could not move fast enough due to excrutiating pain. The doctors in Tennessee are rightfully fearful that if someone has a reaction or overdose on pain meds that they will be put in prision for muder. This happens all the time. I never abused my pain medication and I am a strong Christian and would never harm myself.  I soon will be too depressed over the horrible pain to even try to leave the house and will not be able to pay my bills.  I can't mentally take this suffering and pain anymore. Or I will take to the streets in search of pain meds and possibly be killed.  I can't live suffering like this every day. This is what the FDA and uncompassionate politicians have created for not just me but thousands of others.  When I feel sorry for myself I think of the 5 year old little boy with severe physical deformities that cannot get pain medicines either and does not understand.  Please pray for me. Please speak out about this abuse of already suffering cancer patients.
 

Fri Jun 28, 2019 12:41 PM

I agree  with the findings.  A little over 2 years ago, I received the standard treatment for adenocarcinoma cervical cancer that had also affected my uterus, endometrium and parametrium.  I had standard treatment -- 25 external radiation, 6 cisplatin and 5 brachytherapy.  I was declared in remission (NED) and felt great for about 2 or 3 months after treatment ended.  Then the pain started in most of the major joints of my body, particularly hip. At the end of last year I started doing post-treatment and lymphatic yoga twice a week and OT/PT once a week. I truly believe the oncologists have to know what's ahead after radiation and chemo, but if they told us, more would opt to forego treatment. Then we're told the pain comes from depression and we need to see a therapist, or, better yet, take an antidepressant and anti-anxiety drug.  The reality is that the pain leads to the depression and anxiety rather than the other way around.  The fear that hangs over us, especially with cervical cancer and other pelvic cancers is exacerbated when doing the simplest of things is painful, and you then realize it's not going away -- it's getting worse. I'm now seeing a rheumatologist for "auto-immune systemic inflammatory arthritis basically from head to toe, yet while my calcium seems fine, x-rays and CTs seem to tell a different story.  Would I still choose treatment if I had known all this?  Yes, but will I do it again in the event of a recurrence?  I don't think so, but I won't know for sure until I have to face it.  Thanks for all the great articles and information.

Fri Jun 28, 2019 08:29 PM

This article, and the heartrending comments above, underscore the total lack of understanding or support for cancer survivors in the medical community. Makes my blood boil! I too was never told about the potential complications from radiation and chemo for uterine sarcoma. I consider myself fortunate, but have encountered the same ignorance when I did present with any long term effects.
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