Overcoming Barriers to Cancer Pain Management: An Institutional Change Model

Virginia Chih Yi Sun, Tami Borneman, Betty Ferrell, Barbara Piper, Marianna Koczywas, Kyong Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research Pain Guidelines of 1994 recognized pain as a critical symptom that impacts quality of life (QOL). The barriers to optimum pain relief were classified into three categories: patient, professional, and system barriers. A prospective, longitudinal clinical trial is underway to test the effects of the "Passport to Comfort" innovative intervention on pain and fatigue management. This article reports on preintervention findings related to barriers to pain management. Cancer patients with a diagnosis of breast, lung, colon, or prostate cancer who reported a pain rating of ≥4 were accrued. Subjects completed questionnaires to assess subjective ratings of overall QOL, barriers to pain management, and pain knowledge at baseline and at one- and three-month evaluations. A chart audit was conducted at one month to document objective data related to pain management. The majority of subjects had moderate (4-6 on a 0-10 numeric rating scale) pain at the time of accrual. Patient barriers to pain management existed in attitudes and knowledge regarding addiction, tolerance, and not being able to control pain. Subjects who were currently receiving chemotherapy were reluctant to communicate their pain with health care professionals. Professional and system barriers were focused around screening, documentation, reassessment, and follow-up of pain. Lack of referrals to supportive care services for patients was also noted. Several well-described patient, professional, and system barriers continue to hinder efforts to provide optimal pain relief. Phase II of this initiative will attempt to eliminate these barriers using the "Passport" intervention to manage cancer pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-369
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Pain
  • QOL
  • barriers
  • quality of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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