Managing Cancer Pain in Older Adults

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Managing cancer pain in older adults can be complex and challenging. Understanding the unique needs of older patients with cancer is important to safe and effective pain management. The goals of this review are to discuss the assessment of older adults with cancer-related pain, treatment of cancer pain, and adverse effects or potential risks from treatment that are unique to older patients. A detailed pain assessment and when possible utilizing the geriatric assessment are vital to developing a cancer pain management plan. The geriatric assessment can help clinicians uncover problems not routinely assessed in the standard oncologic evaluation. Opioid pain medications are safe and effective for older adults with cancer pain as long as these medications are closely monitored and titrated slowly. In addition to the well-known adverse effects of opioid medications, clinicians need to be aware of the unique risks in older adults, which could include delirium, polypharmacy, and falls.

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