Psychiatric Aspects of Pain in Cancer Patients


The goal of this review is to discuss the psychiatric aspects of pain in cancer patients from a biopsychosocialapproach. Pain in cancer patients is considered as a complex reaction causing severe suffering and involvesmany psychological aspects. It has many dimensions such as personality, affect, cognition and social relations.The pain experience may also be influenced by some psychological factors such as anxiety, depression and themeaning of pain. Therefore, a successful management of cancer pain requires a multidisciplinary approach.Since cancer pain is generally treated medically, the psychological impact of pain is often underestimated.However, cancer pain is usually related to high levels of psychological distress. Culture, as an important factoraffecting cancer pain, will also be discussed during this review. It is crucial to understand cultural diversity inthe treatment of cancer patients with pain. Research shows that a minority patients of various ethnicities haveless control of their pain because of the miscommunication problem within the medical setting. By paying attentionto patients’ cultural diversities, problems such as miscommunication causing inadequate control of pain can beeliminated. In order to manage pain in cancer patients, cognitive-behavioral interventions may be integratedwith pharmacotherapy. The main goal of these strategies is to provide a sense of control and better coping skillsto deal with cancer. Patients’ maladaptive thoughts or behaviors may cause physical and emotional stress. Mainbehavioral strategies include biofeedback, relaxation training, and hypnosis. Cognitive strategies include guidedimagery, distraction, thought monitoring and problem solving. By discussing all of these aspects of cancer pain,the multidimensional characteristic of pain and the relation between cancer pain and psychiatric factors will beclarified.