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December 1978

Pain of Terminal Cancer Patients

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine (Drs Oster and Vizel), Cancer Research Center, and the School of Public Health (Ms Turgeon), Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York.

Arch Intern Med. 1978;138(12):1801-1802. doi:10.1001/archinte.1978.03630370025014

The belief that cancer inevitably leads to a painful death is widespread. This may contribute to society's "cancerophobia" with subsequent frequent delays in seeking medical attention for suspected malignant neoplasms. We evaluated the degree of pain experienced by dying patients, with and without cancer, at a large medical center. Patterns of analgesic administration and physician and nurse progress notes demonstrated that patients dying with cancer had significantly higher preterminal daily pain ratings and significantly fewer pain-free days than patients dying without cancer (P <.01). Nevertheless, approximately one quarter of cancer patients died without any pain or analgesic administration. A painful death from cancer is thus not inevitable.

(Arch Intern Med 138:1801-1802, 1978)