Cancer survivors are twice as likely to suffer from chronic pain

Photo (c) KatarzynaBialasiewicz - Getty Images

Researchers estimate over five million survivors struggle with the condition

A new study explored a unique symptom common to over five million cancer survivors: chronic pain.

According to researchers, cancer survivors are twice as likely to struggle with chronic pain compared with those who never had the disease.

“This study provided the first comprehensive estimate of chronic pain prevalence among cancer survivors,” said researcher Dr. Changchuan Jiang. “These results highlight the important unmet needs of pain management in the large, and growing cancer survivorship community.”

Pain by the numbers

To see the stark contrast in cancer survivor’s chronic pain versus the general population, the researchers consulted data from the National Health Interview Survey. Set up by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the dataset estimates that nearly 5.4 million cancer survivors struggle with chronic pain, which translates to about 35 percent of all cancer survivors in the United States.

The researchers found that more money goes towards medical bills for these patients, and many struggle with sticking to pain management treatments. As a result, quality of life takes a hit when the pain becomes persistent after the disease has been treated.

Outside factors such as poor insurance coverage and employment status also increased the risk of developing chronic pain, as did the type of cancer. Those who had uterine, bone, throat, or kidney cancer were more likely to experience severe chronic pain.

With this information, the researchers hope that medical professionals and legislators realize how prevalent this issue is, and they hope more work is done to ensure that cancer survivors are living as comfortably as possible.

Beyond the disease

A recent study found that young cancer survivors are dealing with far more than just the physical ramifications of the disease, as finding work and dealing with the medical costs can be overwhelming.

Nearly 60 percent of the study’s participants reported being unable to physically complete certain tasks at their jobs, while over 50 percent had trouble doing certain tasks because of treatments.

The financial burden was especially severe, with some survivors having to file for bankruptcy; others had to borrow upwards of $10,000 to cover medical costs.

"The results of this study are important because they describe the challenges faced by adolescent and young adults during and after cancer treatment that could uniquely impact both educational and work-related opportunities," said researcher Betsy Risendal, PhD.

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