AMSTERDAM (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS)– Five years after a cancer diagnosis, patients who report having chronic neuropathic pain are twice as likely to be out of work as patients who report having no neuropathic pain, authors of a large longitudinal study said.

“For middle-term cancer survivors, suffering from chronic neuropathic pain unfortunately predicts labor-market exit,” said Marc-Karim Bendiane, from Aix-Marseille University in Marseille, France.

Pain is still frequently underdiagnosed, poorly managed, and undertreated among cancer survivors, and there is a need for alternatives to analgesics for control of chronic neuropathic pain (CNP), Mr. Bendiane said at an annual congress sponsored by the European Cancer Organisation.

Mr. Bendiane and colleagues used data from VICAN, a longitudinal survey of issues of concern to cancer survivors 2 years and 5 years after a diagnosis. The cohort consists of patients diagnosed with cancers who comprise 88% of all cancer diagnoses in France, including cancers of the breast; colon and rectum; lip, oral cavity, and pharynx; kidney; cervix; endometrium; non-Hodgkin lymphoma; melanoma; thyroid; bladder; and prostate.

To assess CNP, the researchers used data from a seven-item questionnaire designed to identify neuropathic characteristics of pain experienced by patients in the 2 weeks prior to a comprehensive patient interview.

Of the 982 patients who were working at the time of diagnosis, 36% reported pain within the previous 2 weeks, and of this group, 79% had chronic pain of neuropathic origin. CNP was more common in women than in men (P less than .01); in college-educated people, compared with less-educated people (P less than .001); those who had undergone chemotherapy, compared with no chemotherapy (P less than .001); and those who had radiotherapy vs. no radiotherapy (P less than .001).

For each cancer site, the prevalence of CNP among 5-year cancer survivors was substantially higher than the overall prevalence in France of 7%. For example, 34% of patients with cancers of the cervix and endometrium reported CNP, as did 29.9% of patients who survived cancers of the lip, oral cavity, and pharynx, 32.1% of lung cancer survivors, and 32.7% of breast cancer survivors.

Five years after diagnosis, 22.6% of patients who had been employed in 2010 were out of work in 2015.

The presence of CNP was associated with a nearly twofold greater risk of unemployment (adjusted odds ratio, 1.96; P less than .001) in a multivariate logistic regression analysis comparing employed and unemployed patients and controlling for social and demographic characteristics, job characteristics at diagnosis, and medical factors such as tumor site, prognosis, and treatment type.

The French National Cancer Institute and INSERM, the National Institute for Research in Health and Medicine, supported the study. The investigators reported no conflicts of interest.


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