Update on Prevalence of Pain in Patients with Cancer: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis: Beyond the Abstract

The first systematic review on the prevalence of pain in cancer patients showed that up to 64% of cancer patients suffer from pain. This review was published in 2007, and since then awareness for cancer pain has increased. The IASP had a global year against cancer pain from October 2008 to October 2009, and used this year to focus on raising awareness, improving treatment and growing support. Furthermore, the development of new drugs against pain, such as rapid onset opioids led us to believe that the prevalence of pain in cancer patients could have decreased over the last ten years. 

In order to measure the prevalence of pain in cancer patients we repeated the search which was used in the first review. The search was limited from September 2005 to January 2014, in order to include new literature only. The new search yielded 4117 titles, of which 122 studies were included in the review. 

The prevalence of pain in cancer patients in the last review was comparable to the first review. However, there was a large increase in number of articles (122) included compared to the first review (52 articles), despite the search covering a much shorter time-span. This could be the result of a truly increased attention for cancer pain. This increased attention should result in a breakdown of barriers for optimal treatment of cancer pain over the following years. Implementation and adherence of treatment algorithms such as the WHO pain ladder needs to increase in order to decrease pain prevalence and increase the quality of life for many patients. 

Written by: Johan Haumann and Marieke HJ van den Beuken-van Everdingen