Patient Barriers to Optimal Cancer Pain Control

Psychooncology. 2003 Mar;12(2):153-60. doi: 10.1002/pon.627.


Poorly controlled pain is a significant problem for cancer patients. Contributing factors may include concerns about analgesics and fears about the implications of pain, which may hinder open communication. We surveyed the prevalence of these concerns in Australian oncology patients and investigated associations with inadequate pain control. Ninety-three adult patients with cancer, undergoing treatment at a teaching hospital, completed the patient barriers questionnaire (BQ) and a self-report questionnaire to determine pain severity, interference with daily activities, use of analgesics and alternative therapies, and hesitation to report pain. Overall, there was a high prevalence of agreement with the BQ scales assessing concerns about communication and analgesic use. One-third of patients had clinically significant pain, which interfered with daily activities, despite use of analgesics. They were more likely to use alternative therapies for pain control, to hesitate to discuss their pain, and had significantly greater concerns about side effects of analgesics and injections. Our study confirms that patient barriers exist in this Australian population and are associated with inadequate pain control. Oncology staff need to actively screen for pain, particularly targeting patients using alternative therapies and experiencing side effects, develop communication and prescribing skills, and diversify pain management approaches beyond analgesics.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Communication Barriers*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Pain, Intractable / drug therapy
  • Pain, Intractable / psychology
  • Pain, Intractable / therapy
  • Psychometrics
  • Sampling Studies
  • Self-Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics