Pain and other symptoms and their relationship to quality of life in cancer patients on opioids

Sigridur Zoëga*, Nanna Fridriksdottir, Valgerdur Sigurdardottir, Sigridur Gunnarsdottir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to assess pain, other symptoms and QOL, and the relationship between these variables, among cancer patients on strong opioids. Methods: The study was cross-sectional, descriptive, and correlational. A convenience sample of 150 cancer patients, ≥18 years, all on strong opioids for ≥3 days was recruited. Results: The mean (SD) age was 64.7 (12.7) years, and 59 % were women. Mean (SD) time from cancer diagnosis was 36.3 (55.1) months. The median number of symptoms was 9, range 1-16 and the mean (SD) severity was 1.9 (0.5) on a 1-4 scale. Pain was one of the most prevalent (90 %) and severe symptoms with a mean (SD) of 2.56 (0.9). Number of symptoms explained 25.8 % of the variance in QOL, adjusted for age and sex. Another model, also adjusted for age and sex, showed that pain, fatigue, insomnia and depression, explained 33.6 % of the variance in QOL. Conclusions: The symptomatology in this study was similar to studies on patients with advanced cancer. QOL was associated with the number of symptoms patients experience and individual symptoms, notably fatigue and pain. Despite the use of strong opioids, pain was both common and severe, suggesting under-treatment. Pain and other symptoms need to be assessed and managed in order to improve patients' QOL. Special attention needs to be paid to multisymptom management in patients on opioids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1273-1280
Number of pages8
JournalQuality of Life Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013

Other keywords

  • Cancer
  • Opioids
  • Pain
  • Quality of life
  • Symptoms


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