Even 10 years after diagnosis and without recurrence, cancer survivors have a higher opioid prescription rate than healthy controls, according to the results of a study published in Cancer.

Researchers studied data from a population-matched cohort study of 17,202 people, half of whom were cancer survivors and half health controls. All survivors were diagnosed at least five years prior with no evidence of recurrence and were a median of 10 years postdiagnosis.

They found that survivors of lung, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, or gynecologic cancers had higher opioid prescription rates than the healthy controls, but breast cancer survivors had similar opioid prescription rates to controls.

Primary care providers for cancer survivors “should consider close examination of reasons for continued opioid use in order to differentiate chronic pain from dependency, as well as explore alternative methods for pain control, such as physical therapy, exercise, and acupuncture,” the researchers concluded.

ONS’s position statement on cancer pain management identifies cancer pain prevention and treatment as essential parts of quality cancer care throughout all phases of the cancer care continuum, including survivorship. For more information about managing cancer-related pain in patients and survivors, refer to ONS’s Putting Evidence Into Practice resources and the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing’s recent pain supplement.