Prevalence of pain and treatment outcomes among cancer patients in a Malaysian palliative care unit
Background: Pain remains one of the most common and debilitating symptoms of advanced cancer. To date, there is a lack of studies on pain and its treatment among Malaysian palliative care patients.
Objective: This study aimed to explore the prevalence of pain and its treatment outcomes among adult cancer patients admitted to a palliative care unit in Sabah, Malaysia.
Methods: Of 327 patients screened (01/09/15-31/12/17), 151 patients with assessed self-reported pain scores based on the numerical rating scale of 0-10 (current, worst and least pain within the past 24 hours) upon admission (baseline), 24, 48 and 72 hours post-admission and discharge were included. Pain severity and pain score reductions were analysed among those who experienced pain upon admission or in the past 24 hours. Treatment adequacy was measured by the Pain Management Index (PMI) among discharged patients. The PMI was constructed upon worst scores categorised as 0 (no pain), 1 (1-4, mild pain), 2 (5-6, moderate pain), or 3 (7-10, severe pain) which is then subtracted from the most potent level of prescribed analgesic drug scored as 0 (no analgesia), 1 (non-opioid), 2 (weak opioid) or 3 (strong opioid). PMI≥0 indicated adequate treatment.
Results: Upon admission, 61.1% [95%CI 0.54:0.69] of 151 patients presented with pain. Of 123 patients who experienced pain upon admission or in the past 24 hours, 82.1% had moderate to severe worst pain. Throughout patients’ ward stay until discharge, there was an increased prescribing of analgesics and adjuvants compared to baseline, excluding weak opioids, with strong opioids as the mainstay treatment. For all pain score types (current, worst and least pain within the past 24 hours), means decreased at each time point (24, 48 and 72 hours post-admission and discharge) from baseline, with a significant decrease at 24 hours post-admission (p<0.001). Upon discharge (n=100), treatment adequacy significantly improved (PMI≥0 100% versus 68% upon admission, p<0.001).
Conclusions: Accounting for pain’s dynamic nature, there was a high prevalence of pain among cancer patients in the palliative care unit. Continuous efforts incorporating comprehensive pain assessments, evidence-based treatments and patient education are necessary to provide adequate pain relief and end-of-life comfort care.
The authors hereby transfer, assign, or otherwise convey to Pharmacy Practice: (1) the right to grant permission to republish or reprint the stated material, in whole or in part, without a fee; (2) the right to print pr epublish copies for free distribution or sale; and (3) the right to republish the stated material in any format (electronic or printed). In addition, the undersigned affirms that the article described above has not previously been published, in whole or part, is not subject to copyright or other rights except by the author(s), and has not been submitted for publication elsewhere, except as communicated in writing to Pharmacy Practice with this document.
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY-NC-ND) that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.