Considerations for Pain Assessments in Cancer Patients: A Narrative Review of the Latin American Perspective

Pergolizzi Jr J, LeQuang J K, Coluzzi F, Magnusson P, Lara-Solares A, Varrassi Ge. (June 22, 2023) Considerations for Pain Assessments in Cancer Patients: A Narrative Review of the Latin American Perspective. Cureus 15(6): e40804. doi:10.7759/cureus.40804


Cancer incidence in Latin America is lower than in Europe or the United States but morbidity and mortality rates are disproportionately high. A barrier to adequate pain control is inadequate pain assessment, which is a relatively easy and inexpensive metric. The objective of this narrative review is to describe pain assessment for cancer patients in Latin America. Cultural factors may influence pain perception, including contextualizing pain as noble or natural suffering and aspects of what is now called “spiritual pain.” Unlike other painful conditions, cancer pain may be strongly associated with existential fear, psychosocial distress, anxiety, and spiritual concerns. Pain assessment allows not just quantification of pain intensity but may elucidate pain mechanisms involved or psychosocial aspects that may color the pain. Many current pain assessment instruments capture only pain intensity, which is but one aspect of the pain experience; some have expanded to include functional assessments, mental health status evaluations, and quality of life metrics. A quality-of-life assessment may be appropriate for cancer patients since chronic pain can severely impact function, which can in turn create a vicious cycle by exacerbating pain. The incidence of cancer in Latin America is expected to increase in the ensuing years. Better pain assessment and clinician education are needed to help manage pain in this large and growing patient population.

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