Background: The goals of the current studies were: 1) to determine the pain treatment needs of socioeconomically disadvantaged African-American and Hispanic patients with recurrent or metastatic cancer and 2) to assess the attitudes of health care professionals who treat them.
Methods: In the first study 108 African-American and Hispanic patients with metastatic or recurrent cancer and pain completed a survey about their pain intensity, pain interference, and attitudes toward analgesic medications. Physicians also rated their patients' pain and the adequacy of the patients' current analgesic prescriptions was assessed. In the second study 55 physicians and nurses who treat these patients completed a questionnaire regarding cancer pain and its management in their practice settings.
Results: Approximately 28% of the Hispanic and 31% of the African-American patients received analgesics of insufficient strength to manage their pain. Although the majority of patients received appropriate analgesics, 65% reported severe pain. Physicians underestimated pain severity for 64% of the Hispanic and 74% of the African-American patients. Physicians were more likely to underestimate the pain severity of female patients than male patients. Inadequate pain assessment, patient reluctance to report pain, and lack of staff time were perceived as barriers to pain management.
Conclusions: Although the data suggest recent improvements in analgesic prescribing practices for African-American and Hispanic cancer patients, the majority of patients reported high levels of pain and limited pain relief from analgesic medications. Inadequate pain assessment remains a major barrier to optimal cancer pain treatment.
Copyright 2000 American Cancer Society.