Background: Two representative samples of primary care physicians (N = 600) and medical oncologists (N = 300) in France were surveyed about their attitudes toward and knowledge about cancer pain management.
Methods: The survey was conducted by telephone with a questionnaire based on a model developed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pain Research Group. It was designed to assess physicians' estimates of the prevalence of pain among patients with cancer, their practice in prescribing analgesics, their training in cancer pain management, and the quality of care received by cancer patients in their own practice and in France.
Results: Barriers to adequate cancer pain management are prevalent and consistently more common among primary care physicians than among medical oncologists. Although 85% of primary care physicians and 93% of medical oncologists express satisfaction with their own ability to manage cancer pain, 76% of primary care physicians and 50% of medical oncologists report being reluctant to prescribe morphine for cancer pain. Both groups cite fear of side effects as their main reason to hesitate to prescribe morphine. Concerns about the risk of tolerance (odds ratio [OR], 1.15-2.52), perceptions that other effective drugs are available (OR, 1.11-2.41), perceptions that morphine has a poor image in public opinion (OR, 0.96-2.07), and the constraints of prescription forms (OR, 1.12-2.26) contribute significantly to physicians' infrequent prescription of morphine, as are being female (OR, 1.01-2.03) and being an older oncologist (OR, 1.09-2.51).
Conclusions: This study (1) confirms the existence among French physicians of attitudinal barriers and knowledge deficits previously reported in other countries that can impede cancer pain management, (2) identifies new barriers to the proper prescription of morphine for cancer pain control, and (3) reveals discrepancies in physicians' attitudes and knowledge about pain control which suggest a need for the systematic evaluation of cancer patients' care.