A survey of Canadian cancer patients’ perspectives on the characteristics and treatment of breakthrough pain Journal Articles uri icon

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  • OBJECTIVE: Breakthrough pain is defined as a transient exacerbation of pain that occurs spontaneously or in response to a trigger despite stable and controlled background pain. The purpose of this study was to explore Canadian patients' awareness of and experience with breakthrough pain in cancer (BTPc). METHODS: Four Canadian cancer centers participated in a non-interventional survey recruiting cancer patients who experienced breakthrough pain. These patients were asked about their pain, its impact on functioning, current management and interest in new treatments of BTPc. RESULTS: Ninety-four Canadian cancer patients participated in this study, with 96% stating that cancer pain impacted their daily living with over half unable to go to work or shopping. Fifty percent of patients said that an episode of BTPc lasted greater than 60 minutes, with the pain score being on average 7.8/10, impacting normal work (7.2/10) and general activity (7.1/10). Only 35% of patients were very satisfied with the speed of relief of their medications. Those who did not take their breakthrough pain medication for every episode stated that was because the pain was not always severe (37%), or they were afraid of becoming tolerant (23%) or addicted (12%). Patients stated that the most important features of a new treatment for BTPc were the ability to relieve pain completely (47%), and quickly (43%). Patients expressed willingness to try transmucosal products (80%) or nasal products (59%). CONCLUSION: Breakthrough cancer pain in Canadian cancer patients greatly impacts their daily lives. There is room for improvement in the management of BTPc, and the majority of patients would be willing to try new treatments.


  • Bedard, Gillian
  • Hawley, Philippa
  • Zhang, Liying
  • Slaven, Marissa
  • Gagnon, Pierre
  • Bisland, Stuart
  • Bennett, Margaret
  • Tardif, Francois
  • Chow, Edward

publication date

  • September 2013

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