Do educational interventions improve cancer patients' quality of life and reduce pain intensity? Quantitative systematic review

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This paper reports a quantitative systematic review of the effects of educational interventions on quality of life, pain intensity and pain interference in cancer patients.


Cancer pain has a marked negative impact on quality of life, and this has become an important issue in discussions of treatment options. Patient education seems to be effective in pain management, but no review has been published with quality of life as an outcome measure.

Data sources.

Relevant publications from 2000 to 2010 were identified in six databases (Medline, CIHAHL, PubMed, EMBASE, PsycINFO and DARE) and by means of hand-searches. All randomized controlled trial studies of pain-education programmes for cancer patients were considered, and a quantitative review of effectiveness carried out.

Review methods.

Studies were critically appraised by three independent reviewers, and the Jadad score was used to assess the quality of those included.


Four studies meeting the inclusion criteria were used, after methodological quality assessment. Pain intensity and pain interference were significantly reduced after education, but statistical change in quality of life was not found in any of the studies.


Pain and quality of life are complex matters, and quality of life might not be a sensitive indicator of the effectiveness of pain education. To improve quality of life and reduce the severity of pain in cancer patients, individualized care, recognition of variations in patient experience, and a multi-disciplinary approach are required. Further research is recommended into patients' preferences of any educational intervention, and into the quality of existing education programmes and the expertise of the healthcare professionals concerned.

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