A pathway linking patient participation in cancer consultations to pain control

Richard L. Street, Daniel J Tancredi, Christina Slee, Donna K. Kalauokalani, Dionne Evans Dean, Peter Franks, Richard L Kravitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Objective: To test a pathway through which a tailored, pain management education-coaching intervention could contribute to better cancer pain control through the effects of patients' communication about pain on physician prescribing of pain medication. Methods: Secondary analysis of data from a randomized controlled trial that tested the effects of a tailored education-coaching intervention on pain control for patients with advanced cancer. The current analysis focused on a subset of the patients (n = 135) who agreed to have their consultations audio-recorded. Patients' active communication about pain (e.g., expressing questions, concerns, and preferences about pain-related issues) was coded from audio-recordings. Change in pain medication was measured by patient self-report. Improvement in pain control was scored as the difference between baseline pain score and pain reported at 6 weeks. Results: Patients' pain-related communication was a significant predictor of patient-reported changes in physician prescribing of pain medication (p < .0001) and mediated the effect of baseline pain on medication change. Other predictors of change in pain medication were age (younger) and having participated in the intervention (as opposed to usual care). Of the patients reporting adjustment in pain medications, 49% experienced better pain control compared with only 27% of patients reporting no change in pain management (p < .02). Conclusions: Cancer patients who ask questions, express concerns, and state preferences about pain-related matters can prompt physicians to change their pain management regimen, which in turn may lead to better pain control. Future research should model pathways through which clinician-patient communication can lead to better cancer outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1111-1117
Number of pages7
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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