Cancer Pain Needs Vary among African Americans

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- African American cancer patients are heterogeneous in their need for pain medication, Salimah Meghani, Ph.D., said at a meeting sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Minority Health.

Dr. Meghani interviewed 36 self-identified African American cancer patients from three outpatient oncology clinics in Philadelphia; all were over age 18 years and had solid tumors. All of the patients had self-reported pain at least 1 month in duration during the last 6 months; none had had major surgery in the prior 3 months.

The patients filled out a 32-item self-report instrument assessing pain severity and its impact, and researchers conducted open-ended interviews lasting 50-70 minutes. To ensure reliability among coders, 15% of the transcripts were independently coded by Dr. Meghani and a consultant.

The patients were 33-75 years old. Slightly more than half were male, two-thirds were single, and 89% were Christian, said Dr. Meghani, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Health Disparities Research at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Almost all of the patients were insured; the median annual household income was in the $20,000-$30,000 range.

Only one-third of the patients said they preferred to take pain medication regularly. Overall, 25% said they were concerned about taking too much pain medication, and 36% said they had problems with side effects from pain medication. On the other hand, 19% of the patients said they needed more pain medication and 36% said they needed stronger medication. …