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Support Care Cancer. 2008 May;16(5):461-7. Epub 2007 Oct 2.

Quality of analgesic treatment in patients with advanced prostate cancer: do we do a better job now? The Swiss Group for Clinical Cancer Research (SAKK) experience.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Bürgerspital, Schöngrünstrasse 38a, 4500, Solothurn, Switzerland.



The aim of this study was to evaluate pain intensity and the application of the WHO guidelines for cancer pain treatment in patients with prostate cancer treated at Swiss cancer centers.


We analyzed a series of five multicenter phase II clinical trials which examined the palliative effect of different chemotherapies in patients with advanced hormone-refractory prostate carcinoma. Of 170 patients, 1,018 visits were evaluable for our purpose, including ratings of pain intensity by patients and prescribed analgesics.


No or mild pain was indicated by patients in 36 to 55% of the visits, more than mild pain in 30 to 46%. In 21% of the visits, the WHO pain treatment criteria (treatment according to one of the three steps; oral, rectal or transdermal application of the main dose; administration on a regular schedule) were fulfilled, and the Cleeland index was positive according to all recommendations. In 6% of the visits, neither the WHO criteria were fulfilled nor was the Cleeland index positive. This indicates insufficient pain treatment not following the WHO guidelines and that the prescribed analgesics were not sufficiently potent for the rated pain intensity.


In this selective Swiss sample, the standard of analgesic treatment is high. However, there is still scope for improvement. This cannot solely be solved by improving the knowledge of the physicians. Programs to change the patients' attitude towards cancer pain, training to improve the physicians' communication skills, and institutional changes may be promising strategies.

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