Towards a pain free hospital : an in-depth qualitative analysis of the pain experiences of head and neck cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy
Brown, Matthew Rd
Ross, Joy R
BACKGROUND: Treatment for head and neck cancer can frequently be a painful experience with implications for patients in terms of quality of life, nutrition and ultimately treatment outcomes. Pain may arise for a number of reasons in this patient group including the influence of localised tissue damage from radiotherapy, the effects of chemotherapeutic agents as well as the disease process itself. Early identification of cancer pain, through screening and early analgesic and pain management are thought to be the most appropriate approaches to the problem. AIM: To explore in-depth, patients' views of the experience of pain related to radiotherapy for head and neck cancer, within the context of a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of pain screening and intervention. SAMPLE: A purposive sample of head and neck cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy who were participating in a separate RCT of a proactive pain screening intervention. METHODS: A qualitative design using one-off, face-to-face, in-depth interviews. Data were inductively analysed for themes using thematic analysis. Data were collected from September 2012 to January 2013. FINDINGS: Eight participants were interviewed. Several issues around pain management arose and the influence of various factors became apparent. Four dominant themes emerged: facets of radiotherapy pain in head and neck cancer, facilitators and barriers to pain management, pain services and finally interdisciplinary working. CONCLUSION: The specific issues faced by head and neck cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy highlight the need for pain relieving interventions delivered by pain specialists, in tandem with the development of robust self-management strategies. An integrated approach to care is optimal, comprising pain screening at each outpatient encounter, and review by specialists as necessary.