A European survey of oncology nurse breakthrough cancer pain practices

Tone Rustoen*, Jenske I. Geerling, Theodora Pappa, Carina Rundstrom, Isolde Weisse, Sian C. Williams, Bostjan Zavratnik, Ulf E. Kongsgaard, Yvonne Wengstrom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Purpose of the research: Breakthrough cancer pain (BTCP) is a prevalent type of pain in which the nurse can play an important role in improving patients' pain symptoms and overall well-being. Nurses' experience with BTCP (number of patients, and estimates of severity and frequency), the treatment of BTCP (pharmacological and nonpharmacological treatments normally used), ratings of the importance of treatment factors, and reasons given for not advising patients to take strong painkillers are presented in the present paper.

Methods and sample: Nurses from 12 European countries, who cared for patients with cancer, took part in a survey. In total 1618 nurses were recruited and 1241 completed the survey questionnaire.

Key results: Almost 90% of the nurses were female, and 50.4% had >9 years of experience in oncology nursing. The majority of the nurses (47%) said that a patient typically suffered from BTCP 2-3 times a day, and the severity of the pain for the patients was described as severe by 75.5%. In all, 38.4% of the nurses were unaware that medications specifically intended for treatment of BTCP exist, and 57% reported that oral opioids were normally prescribed for BTCP at their workplace. While 38% said they did not use nonpharmacological treatments for BTCP, the most common treatment approach was positional change (used by 76.6%). The treatment varied between the European countries.

Conclusion: Patients do not receive the appropriate medical treatment for their BTCP. Nurses need better training about BTCP in general, and BTCP assessment and management specifically. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-100
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Oncology Nursing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb-2013


  • Breakthrough cancer pain
  • Oncology
  • Nurses experiences
  • Nurses attitudes
  • Survey questionnaire
  • Treatments

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