Cancer pain as the presenting problem in emergency departments: incidence and related factors

Support Care Cancer. 2010 Jan;18(1):57-65. doi: 10.1007/s00520-009-0630-6. Epub 2009 Apr 7.


Goals of work: Since emergency departments (ED) are designed to manage people with urgent and life-threatening conditions, cancer patients presenting with pain may not receive the appropriate care in the ED. The purpose of this study was to identify the incidence and factors related to ED visits by cancer patients with pain complaints.

Materials and methods: Medical charts selected by stratified random sampling were retrospectively reviewed to obtain information about ED visits by cancer patients during a 1-year period. The sample included 1,179 ED visits by 1,026 cancer patients.

Main results: Pain was the most common reason for ED visits by cancer patients. The incidence of ED visits for pain as a presenting problem was 27.8%. The 72-h ED return-visit rate was 8.2% for cancer patients who visited the ED with pain complaints. Patients with gastrointestinal and genitourinary cancers were more likely to visit the ED for pain. Patients who had received radiation therapy were less likely to visit the ED for pain.

Conclusion: Effective cancer pain management programs need to be developed and tested to reduce ED visits by cancer patients with pain. More research is needed to explore why cancer patients with pain visit the ED.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / classification
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Taiwan