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

HealthDay News
by -- Robert Preidt
Updated: Jun 20th 2019

new article illustration

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.