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More than 5 million cancer survivors in the United States experience chronic pain, almost twice the rate in the general population, according to a study published by Mount Sinai researchers in JAMA Oncology in June.
Researchers used the National Health Interview Survey, a large national representative dataset from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to estimate the prevalence of chronic pain among cancer survivors. They found that about 35 percent of cancer survivors have chronic pain, representing 5.39 million patients in the United States.
“This study provided the first comprehensive estimate of chronic pain prevalence among cancer survivors,” said corresponding author Changchuan Jiang, MD, MPH, a medical resident at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and Mount Sinai West. “These results highlight the important unmet needs of pain management in the large, and growing cancer survivorship community.”
Specific types of cancer—such as bone, kidney, throat, and uterine—also had a higher incidence of chronic and severe pain that restricted daily activity. Chronic pain was more prevalent in survivors who were unemployed and had inadequate insurance.
Chronic pain is one of the most common long-term effects of cancer treatment and has been linked with an impaired quality of life, lower adherence to treatment, and higher health care costs. This study is important because a better understanding of the epidemiology of pain in cancer survivors can help inform future health care educational priorities and policies.