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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2008 Feb;35(2):177-87. Epub 2007 Dec 26.

What patients with cancer want to know about pain: a qualitative study.

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Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Onatario, Canada.


Research indicates that patients feel more satisfied and obtain better health outcomes when they are able to discuss their questions with their health professionals. A better understanding of cancer patients' questions may help guide interventions to address their information needs and improve pain management. This study sought to explore and describe the questions that women with breast cancer have about pain related to cancer. Semistructured interviews were conducted with women with pain related to breast cancer or its treatment, recruited from a large teaching hospital in Toronto, Canada. Interviews were audio recorded and fully transcribed. Data saturation was reached after 18 participants were interviewed. Analysis involved the identification of themes and the development of a taxonomy of questions about pain. In total, over 200 questions concerning seven main themes were identified: (1) understanding cancer pain, (2) knowing what to expect, (3) options for pain control, (4) coping with cancer pain, (5) talking with others with cancer pain, (6) finding help managing cancer pain, and (7) describing pain. The information collected suggests that formulating and articulating questions about pain is a context-dependent, time-intensive process that requires reflection, knowledge, and a good use of language. Patients have numerous and diverse questions about pain and its treatment, which may be difficult to address within the context of a typical consultation. To manage pain adequately, innovative efforts are needed to enable patients and health professionals to recognize, articulate, and answer such questions. Internet-based tools could provide some of these solutions.

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