Adaptation to metastatic cancer pain, regional/local cancer pain and non-cancer pain: role of psychological and behavioral factors

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The present study compared the adaptation of cancer pain patients and chronic non-cancer pain patients. Differences between samples of cancer pain patients with and without metastatic disease were also examined. Cancer pain patients reported comparable levels of pain severity to non-cancer chronic pain patients; however, pain due to cancer was associated with higher levels of perceived disability (t(250)=2.97, P<0.004) and lower degree of activity (t(286)=2.45, P<0.04). The patients with cancer pain, particularly those with metastatic disease, reported significantly higher levels of support and solicitous behaviors from significant others, compared to non-cancer chronic pain patients. The majority of the cancer patients, both with (81%) and without (84%) metastatic disease as well as non-cancer chronic pain patients (85%), could be classified into one of three psychosocial subgroups that had been previously identified with non-cancer chronic pain patients: ‘dysfunctional’ (high levels of pain, perceived interference, affective distress and low levels of perceived control and activity), ‘interpersonally distressed’ (high levels of affective distress, negative responses from significant others and low levels of perceived support) and ‘adaptive copers’ (low levels of interference and affective distress, high levels of perceived control and activity). The distribution of the profiles was significantly different across groups (χ2(4)=12.79, P<0.02). However, within each profile, the response patterns were highly comparable across groups. Thus, contrary to the suggestions of some authors, cancer pain and non-cancer chronic pain patients share many features in common. Furthermore, the heterogeneity of psychosocial adaptation to pain within each patient group suggests the importance of psychological assessment in determining the pain management plan.

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