Evidence-based Standards for Cancer Pain Management
Published In: Journal of Clinical Oncology, v. 26, no. 23, Aug. 10, 2008, p. 3879-3885
Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2007
High-quality management of cancer pain depends on evidence-based standards for screening, assessment, treatment, and follow-up for general cancer pain and specific pain syndromes. The authors developed a set of standards through an iterative process of structured literature review and development and refinement of topic areas and standards and subjected recommendations to rating by a multidisciplinary expert panel. Providers should routinely screen for the presence or absence and intensity of pain and should perform descriptive pain assessment for patients with a positive screen, including assessment for likely etiology and functional impairment. For treatment, providers should provide pain education, offer breakthrough opioids in patients receiving long-acting formulations, offer bowel regimens in patients receiving opioids chronically, and ensure continuity of opioid doses across health care settings. Providers should also follow up on patients after treatment for pain. For metastatic bone pain, providers should offer single-fraction radiotherapy as an option when offering radiation, unless there is a contraindication. When spinal cord compression is suspected, providers should treat with corticosteroids and evaluate with whole-spine magnetic resonance imaging scan or myelography as soon as possible but within 24 hours. Providers should initiate definitive treatment (radiotherapy or surgical decompression) within 24 hours for diagnosed cord compression and should follow up on patients after treatment. These standards provide an initial framework for high-quality evidence-based management of general cancer pain and pain syndromes.