Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and cancer pain

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Purpose of review

This review aims to appraise the most recent evidence for the use of NSAIDS in cancer pain.

Recent findings

The Cochrane review reveals the paucity of high-quality evidence for the use of NSAIDS for cancer pain, highlighting methodological considerations for future research. There is limited evidence for the role of combined NSAIDs (celecoxib and diclofenac) alongside opioids for cancer pain. Recent retrospective data suggests NSAIDS may contribute to better pain control in hospitalized patients. In elderly patients in the last weeks of life, retrospective data shows a reduction in NSAID prescribing, without significant implications for pain relief. A recent systematic review looking at the increased risk of anastomotic leaks versus the survival benefits in cancer patients prescribed NSAIDs post oncological surgery was inconclusive. Considering the prescription of PPIs for gastroprotection, studies in the general population suggest potential risks of long-term use, including renal dysfunction and greater risk of fractures. Although current evidence for the anticancer properties of NSAIDS is based on retrospective cohort studies, there may be a role for aspirin and nonaspirin NSAIDs in reducing the risk of cancer.


Given the lack of quality evidence, NSAIDS should be prescribed on a case by case basis in discussion with the patient, with regular review of efficacy, whilst balancing the ongoing benefits and risks of continued use, taking into account the patient's likely prognosis.

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