Pain intensity, unpleasantness, and anxiety in older adults with and without cancer

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Background: Higher pain levels are associated with higher anxiety levels in people living with cancer. While older adults with cancer may potentially be more prone to higher anxiety levels and cancer-related pain, less is known about this relationship between pain and anxiety in older adults. Methods: We examined the relationship between pain and anxiety in adults aged 60 or older with and without cancer. Pain (intensity/unpleasantness) and anxiety (state/trait) were assessed using questionnaires. We recruited 30 participants with cancer, the majority of whom have breast or prostate cancer (mean age=70.5土8.2 years, 53% female), and 69 controls (mean age=71.8土7.2 years, 61% female). Participants reported current pain and an average value of pain over the last two weeks (numeric rating scale 0-20). Anxiety experienced at the moment (state) and the overall tendency for anxiety (trait) was assessed using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. Results: Participants with cancer reported their current pain as more intense (2.7土3.8) and unpleasant (2.6土4.0) than participants without cancer (intensity: 1.0土2.5, p=0.027; and unpleasantness: 0.9土2.5, p=0.036). Participants with cancer also reported their average pain over the last two weeks as more intense (7.6土6.0) and unpleasant (7.1土5.8) than participants without cancer (intensity: 4.2土4.1, p=0.012; and unpleasantness: 4.0土3.8, p=0.022). There were no group differences in state anxiety (Cancer: 12.2土3.7, Controls: 12.7土3.3, p=0.24) or trait anxiety levels (Cancer: 14.6土4.5, Controls: 14.7土3.4, p=0.39). For each group, we found no significant correlations between state or trait anxiety and either intensity or unpleasantness of current pain or pain from the last two weeks. Conclusions: While previous studies found higher pain and anxiety levels in people with cancer, older adults may be affected by other important factors that may change this relationship. Future work should consider factors such as medication and other comorbidities in this population.


Understanding Cancer (The Ohio State University Denman Undergraduate Research Forum)


Cancer, Pain, Anxiety, Intensity, Unpleasantness