Pain management in patients with cancer: focus on opioid analgesics

Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2011 Aug;15(4):271-9. doi: 10.1007/s11916-011-0201-7.


Cancer pain is generally treated with pharmacological measures, relying on using opioids alone or in combination with adjuvant analgesics. Weak opioids are used for mild-to-moderate pain as monotherapy or in a combination with nonopioids. For patients with moderate-to-severe pain, strong opioids are recommended as initial therapy rather than beginning treatment with weak opioids. Adjunctive therapy plays an important role in the treatment of cancer pain not fully responsive to opioids administered alone (ie, neuropathic, bone, and visceral colicky pain). Supportive drugs should be used wisely to prevent and treat opioids' adverse effects. Understanding the pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, interactions, and cautions with commonly used opioids can help determine appropriate opioid selection for individual cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacokinetics
  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Measurement


  • Analgesics, Opioid