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Guidelines for the Management of Breakthrough Pain in Patients With Cancer

Augusto Caraceni, Andrew Davies, Philippe Poulain, Hernán Cortés-Funes, Sunil J. Panchal, and Guido Fanelli

The moral imperative to adequately manage pain is being increasingly recognized worldwide. A comprehensive pain management approach that addresses the various presentations of pain in patients with cancer is required, including appropriate management of breakthrough pain. Breakthrough pain commonly occurs in patients with advanced cancer and is disabling to the individual and burdensome to society, yet it is often inadequately managed. Because pain is heterogeneous, the best management of an individual’s pain, including breakthrough pain in cancer, requires a thorough assessment to tailor the treatment strategies. Recently developed guidelines support this approach and recommend treating breakthrough pain using rapid- or short-acting opioids with pharmacodynamics that mirror the rapid onset and short duration of the presenting pain. This approach should be part of a comprehensive strategy to treat pain within the context of the primary disease trajectory, offering continuity of care and access to specialized palliative care when appropriate.