Pain in Children With Cancer: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Parent Management

Clin J Pain. 2018 Mar;34(3):198-206. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000000531.


Objectives: Pain is a common and distressing symptom of pediatric cancer, as reported by both children and their parents. Increasingly, children with cancer are cared for as outpatients, yet little is known about how parents manage their cancer-related pain. The aim of the current study was to examine pain prevalence and characteristics, and the pharmacological, physical, and psychological pain management strategies used by parents to manage their child's cancer pain.

Materials and methods: In total, 230 parents and caregivers (89% mothers) of children (mean age=8.93 y, SD=4.50) with cancer currently in treatment or who are survivors completed an online survey about their child's pain in the preceding month.

Results: Results indicated that children with cancer who were on active treatment and who were posttreatment experienced clinically significant levels of pain. Parents reported using more physical and psychological strategies than pharmacological strategies to manage their child's pain. The most frequently used physical/psychological strategy was distraction and acetaminophen was the most frequently administered pain medication. Parents' confidence in managing their child's pain was inversely associated with both how much pain they perceived their child had, and also whether they had given any pain medication.

Discussion: The results of this study suggest that despite parents' use of pain management strategies, management of cancer-related pain continues to be a problem for children during treatment and into survivorship.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / therapeutic use
  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / therapeutic use
  • Caregivers
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain Management
  • Pain Perception
  • Parents
  • Prevalence
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Acetaminophen