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Control of pain in adults with cancer


Pain is a major healthcare problem for patients with cancer; two thirds to three quarters of those with advanced stage disease or metastatic cancer will experience pain. Cancer pain has many dimensions including psychological, physical, social and spiritual which must be addressed in order to improve quality of life and functional ability.

Remit and target users

This guideline provides recommendations based on current evidence for best practice in the management of pain in adult patients who have cancer. The guideline includes advice mainly concerning pain secondary to the cancer, but many of the principles outlined are applicable to coexisting painful conditions and pain associated with treatment of the cancer. It excludes the treatment of pain in children under the age of 12.

This guideline will be of interest to any health professional likely to encounter a patient with cancer-related pain of any severity, including palliative care staff, physicians, surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, interventional radiologists, oncologists, nurses, pharmacists, clinical psychologists, general practitioners and spiritual and religious care providers. It will also be of interest to patients with cancer pain and their carers.

How this guideline was developed

This guideline was developed using a standard methodology based on a systematic review of the evidence. Further details can be found in SIGN 50: A Guideline Developer’s Handbook .

Keeping up to date

This guideline was issued in 2008 and will be considered for review in three years. The review history, and any updates to the guideline in the interim period, will be noted in the review report.

If you are aware of any new evidence that would update this guideline please complete a change request form and return to:

>7 years

Use with caution, declaration of interests governance may not be in line with current policy.


Full guideline (PDF)

Quick reference guide (PDF)

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Supporting material

Register of Interests

Search narrative (PDF)

Equality Impact Assessment (PDF)

 NHS Education training module

Copyright permission (PDF)

Contact us

SIGN 106, November 2008
ISBN 978 1 905813 38 4

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