Misperceptions and inadequate pain management in cancer patients

DICP. 1991 Nov;25(11):1225-30. doi: 10.1177/106002809102501112.


This article examines misperceptions and barriers to adequate pain relief in cancer patients. Healthcare professionals have gaps in their knowledge of opioid drugs as well as misconceptions concerning tolerance, physical dependence, and addiction that often lead to the underprescribing of these agents. The pervasiveness of the "say no to drugs" message in our society and the fear of addiction on the part of patients and their families creates yet another barrier to the legitimate use of opioids to treat cancer pain. Legal and regulatory documents filled with arbitrary and ill-defined labels meant to promote the legitimate use of these drugs and curtail their misuse may instead intimidate healthcare professionals and negatively influence prescribing habits. Increased educational efforts for pharmacists and other healthcare professionals as well as the development of clinical role models and state cancer pain initiatives are cited as means to break down these barriers in order to achieve adequate pain relief for all cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / adverse effects
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Drug Tolerance
  • Humans
  • Narcotics / adverse effects
  • Narcotics / therapeutic use
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Pain, Intractable / drug therapy*
  • Palliative Care / standards*
  • Pharmacists
  • Substance-Related Disorders


  • Analgesics
  • Narcotics