Opioid Use Among Cancer Survivors Raises Pain Management Questions

HealthDay News — Substantially higher opioid prescribing rates persist among cancer survivors, even long after attaining survivorship, according to a study published online in Cancer.

In an effort to examine differences in opioid prescribing rates, Rinku Sutradhar, PhD, from University of Toronto, and colleagues matched individuals (aged 18 to 64 years of age and at least 5 years past their cancer diagnosis) to controls without a prior cancer diagnosis based on sex and calendar year of birth. Follow-up ended with any indication of cancer recurrence or new cancer diagnosis.

The researchers found that the rate of opioid prescribing was 1.22 times higher among survivors than among matched controls. Significantly higher prescribing rates were seen in individuals from lower income quintiles, who were younger, who were from rural neighborhoods, and who had a greater number of comorbidities. Prescribing rates were not associated with sex.

“This raises concerns about the diagnosis and management of chronic pain problems among survivors stemming from their cancer diagnosis or treatment,” the authors write.

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Sutradhar R, Lokku A, Barbera L. Cancer survivorship and opioid prescribing rates: A population-based matched cohort study among individuals with and without a history of cancer [published online August 7, 2017]. Cancer. doi:10.1002/cncr.30839