The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) issued a new clinical practice guideline on management of chronic pain in adult cancer survivors.
It deals comprehensively with the pain people experience after cancer treatment, and is unique in its focus on chronic pain among cancer survivors.
The guideline recommends a full range of evidence-based strategies for safe and effective treatment of persistent pain.
As a result of remarkable advances in cancer diagnosis and therapy, today there are a record 14 million cancer survivors in the United States.
However, an estimated 40% of survivors continue to experience persistent pain as a result of treatment, which can be detrimental to their quality of life.
ASCO's recommendations comprise both long-standing and new approaches, including: routine screening for chronic pain, the use of alternative pain management approaches such as hypnosis and meditation, the use of medical cannabis in certain settings in states where it is legal, and assessing the potential for opioid overuse.
"Many oncologists and primary care physicians are not trained to recognise or treat long-term pain associated with cancer," said Judith A. Paice, PhD, RN, a co-chair of the ASCO Expert Panel that developed the guideline.
"This guideline will help clinicians identify pain early and develop comprehensive treatment plans, using a broad range of approaches."
The guideline recommendations were developed by a multidisciplinary panel of experts in medical oncology, haematology/oncology, pain medicine, palliative care, hospice, radiation oncology, social work, symptom management research, rehabilitation, psychology, and anesthesiology, as well as a patient representative.
The panel conducted a systematic review of medical literature published from 1996 to 2015.
Although there are other guidelines that address the relief of pain associated with advanced cancer as well as chronic pain in non-cancer conditions, this is one of the only guidelines to focus on the growing population of cancer survivors with chronic pain.
This guideline is also unique in describing the wide range of pain syndromes associated with cancer treatments.
Key guideline recommendations include:
"Of great importance is the attention to appropriate assessment, not only of the individual's pain, but also of their potential for over-reliance on opioids," said Dr Paice.
"This guideline outlines precautions that help ensure cancer survivors with persistent pain use opioids safely and effectively, while limiting access to those who are struggling with addiction."