Revisiting Patient-Related Barriers to Cancer Pain Management in the Context of the US Opioid Crisis

Kristine Kwekkeboom; Ronald C. Serlin; Sandra E. Ward; Thomas W. LeBlanc; Adeboye Ogunseitan; James Cleary


Pain. 2021;162(6):1840-1847. 

In This Article


Patient-related barriers to cancer pain management, specifically beliefs about harmful effects of analgesics, have increased during the past 20 years, concurrent with growing awareness and attention to a US opioid crisis. Relationships between patients' concerns and pain severity, pain interference, and adequacy of analgesic use have not changed during this time period, and the percentage of patients with adequately managed cancer pain remains unacceptably low. Efforts to improve pain care will require education to correct erroneous beliefs held by patients, clinicians, and the public about the dangers of opioids when used appropriately for cancer pain; elimination of system and policy barriers that treat cancer patients the same as noncancer patients when accessing prescription opioids; and elimination of stigma associated with analgesic management of pain.