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J Palliat Med. 2019 Nov;22(11):1308-1317. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2019.0171. Epub 2019 Jul 22.

Managing Cancer Pain, Monitoring for Cancer Recurrence, and Mitigating Risk of Opioid Use Disorders: A Team-Based, Interdisciplinary Approach to Cancer Survivorship.

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Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Care, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Department of Medical Oncology, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
West Palm Beach Veterans Affairs Medical Center, West Palm Beach, Florida.
Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California.


Background: Palliative care (PC) teams increasingly care for patients with cancer into survivorship. Cancer survivorship transcends distinctions between acute, chronic, malignant, and nonmalignant pain. Partnering with oncologists, PC teams manage pain that persists after disease-directed treatment, evaluate changing symptoms as possible signs of cancer recurrence, taper opioids and mitigate risk of opioid misuse, and manage comorbid opioid use disorder (OUD). While interdisciplinary guidelines exist for pain management in survivorship, there is a need to develop a conceptual model that fully translates the biopsychosocial framework of PC into survivorship pain management. Objective: This review frames a model for pain management in cancer survivorship that balances analgesia with the imperative to minimize risk of OUD, recognizes signs of disease recurrence, and provides whole-person care. Methods: Comprehensive narrative review of the literature. Results: Little guidance exists for co-management of pain, psychological distress, and opioid misuse in survivorship. We identified themes for whole-person pain management in survivorship: use of opioids and co-analgesic medications to prevent recurrent pain from residual tissue damage following cancer treatment, opioid tapering to the lowest effective dose, utilization of nonpharmacologic psychological interventions shown to reduce pain, screening for and management of OUD in partnership with addiction medicine specialists, maintaining vigilance for disease recurrence, and engaging in shared medical decision making. Conclusions: The management of pain in cancer survivorship is complex and requires interdisciplinary care that balances analgesia with the imperative to reduce long-term inappropriate opioid use and manage OUD, while maintaining therapeutic presence with patients in the spirit of PC.


cancer pain; cancer survivorship; opioid tapering; opioid use disorder; pain psychology


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