A new post-cancer follow-up study by Mount Sinai published this week in JAMA Oncology has found that more than 5 million cancer survivors in the United States suffer from chronic pain—a rate roughly double that of the general population, a press release from the hospital reports.
Study authors say this is the first time researchers have tried to comprehensively estimate chronic pain prevalence among cancer survivors. For the study, researchers used data from the National Health Interview Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Ultimately, researchers found that about 35% of cancer survivors have chronic pain, representing nearly 5.39 million patients in the United States. In fact, chronic pain is one of the most common long-term effects of cancer treatment and has been linked to decreased quality of life, lower adherence to medications, higher overall health care costs and more.
The study also found that specific types of cancer—such as bone, kidney, throat and uterine cancers—had a higher incidence of chronic and severe pain that restricted survivors’ daily activity. Chronic pain was also more prevalent in survivors who were unemployed and had inadequate insurance, underscoring potential disparities in health care.
“These results highlight the important unmet needs of pain management in the large, and growing cancer survivorship community,” said corresponding author Changchuan Jiang, MD, MPH, a medical resident at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and Mount Sinai West. Study authors added that a better understanding of the epidemiology of pain in cancer survivors could help inform future health care educational priorities and policies.
The study also points to a growing need for better posttreatment care in the cancer community. Currently, it is estimated that there are nearly 15.5 million cancer survivors in the United States. This number is expected to reach 26.1 million by 2040.
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