Background: The presence of pain decreases survival rates in cancer. Pain management in clinical settings is often suboptimal and secondary to other cancer-related treatments, leaving many people undertreated. Opioid use is associated with side effects and decreased survival rate in cancer patients. Hence, there is an urgent need for considering factors such as perceived injustice that sustain post-cancer pain and trigger a behavioral pattern associated with opioid use. Injustice beliefs represent a maladaptive pattern of cognitive appraisal that may be a salient target for improving pain-related coping in these patients. Perceived injustice is associated with increased opioid prescription and prospectively predicted opioid use at 1-year follow-up, urging the need for targeted interventions to diminish perceived injustice.
Objectives: Explain the importance of screening for perceived injustice in patients with pain following cancer treatment, its potential relevance for opioid abuse, and its potential impact on the management of pain following cancer. Also, prove clinicians with a clinical guide for an approach comprising of modified pain neuroscience education, motivational interviewing, and acceptance-based interventions to account for perceived injustice in patients having pain following cancer.
Study design: A narrative review, perspective and treatment manual.
Setting: Several universities, a university of applied science department, a university hospital, and a private clinic (i.e., transdisciplinary pain treatment center).
Methods: Patients were cancer survivors with pain. Intervention included modified pain neuroscience education, motivational interviewing, and acceptance-based interventions. Measurements were taken through the Injustice Experience Questionnaire (IEQ).
Results: The IEQ can be used to assess perceived injustice in a valid way. Education about pain, including discussing perceived injustice, should be the first part of the management of pain in cancer survivors. In order to obtain the often-required behavioral change towards a more adaptive lifestyle, motivational interviewing can be used. To thoroughly tackle perceived injustice in patients having pain following cancer, special emphasis should be given to the individual reasons patients identify for experiencing (continued) pain and related symptoms. Pain acceptance should also be thoroughly addressed.
Limitations: Clinical trials exploring the benefits, including cost-effectiveness, of such a multimodal approach in patients with pain following cancer treatment are needed.
Conclusions: In light of its potential relevance for opioid abuse and potential impact on conservative management strategies, clinicians are advised to screen for perceived injustice in patients with pain following cancer treatment. Therapeutic targeting of perceived injustice can be done through an approach comprising of modified pain neuroscience education, motivational interviewing, and acceptance-based interventions.
Keywords: cancer; counselling; education; medication use; motivational interviewing; neuroscience education; opioid; perceived injustice; rehabilitation; survivor; Anger.