Updates in palliative care – overview and recent advancements in the pharmacological management of cancer pain

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Pain is a common symptom in many types of cancer. Interdisciplinary team management, including pain assessment, explanation to the patient/family, treating the reversible, non-pharmacological treatments and reassessment are essential. This article focuses on the pharmacological management of cancer pain, and overviews and updates on the recent advances in this field. Both non-opioid and opioid analgesia as well as coanalgesics (adjuvants) are reviewed. Within non-opioid analgesia the risks of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are considered and recommendations for NSAIDs in patients at risk of gastrointestinal and cardiovascular toxicity are made. For opioid analgesics, side effects of opioids are discussed alongside practical guidance on opioid prescribing and converting between opioids. Newer drugs such as tapentadol are considered in this update. Amitriptyline, duloxetine, gabapentin and pregabalin, and the guidance for their use are reviewed in the coanalgesics (adjuvants) section.

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