Cancer pain assessment

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Purpose of review

Adequate cancer pain assessment using valid and reliable tools is essential for proper cancer pain management. Because cancer pain can be a complex construct, assessment of its many domains should be conducted using multidimensional tools. Furthermore, there is a need to develop a standard, consensus classification system for prognosis of cancer pain.

Recent findings

Unidimensional tools for assessing cancer pain are useful for measuring cancer pain intensity. Other domains and symptoms of the cancer pain experience are assessed using a variety of multidimensional tools. There is a lack of agreement on a standard assessment tool or a standard classification system for cancer pain, although research continues to be undertaken to develop such resources for clinical and research purposes.


Many pain and symptom assessment tools exist for use in the cancer patient, including the Brief Pain Inventory, the McGill Pain Questionnaire, the MD Anderson Symptom Inventory, and the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System, among others. Recent literature reveals the move toward translating these and other tools to electronic applications. Further study is also underway to create a standard, prognostic classification system for cancer pain.

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