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Radiation Therapy Pain Management: Prevalence of Symptoms and Effectiveness of Treatment Options

Nayan Lamba
Brandon A. Mahal
Ruben Martinez
Peggy Leland
Helen A. Shih
CJON 2019, 23(5), 514-521 DOI: 10.1188/19.CJON.514-521

Background: The prevalence of pain among patients undergoing radiation therapy (RT) is not well described.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to assess the prevalence and management of pain in patients undergoing RT.

Methods: 94 patients undergoing RT were surveyed at two time points during the course of their treatment. Patients reported on pain, fatigue, nausea, headache, and depressive symptoms, as well as on the use of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic or alternative methods for symptom management.

Findings: The mean severity of pain did not change significantly between the first week of RT and the final week. Severity of pain was associated with worse fatigue, nausea, headaches, and depressive symptoms, providing opportunities for providers to address multiple co-occurring symptoms. Rates of opioid and marijuana use remained similar between the two time points. More than half of the patients reported use of at least one nonpharmacologic method for pain management, with use increasing during the course of RT.

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