What to do, and what not to do, when diagnosing and treating breakthrough cancer pain (BTcP): expert opinion.
Clinical management of breakthrough cancer pain (BTcP) is still not satisfactory despite the availability of effective pharmacological agents. This is in part linked to the lack of clarity regarding certain essential aspects of BTcP, including terminology, definition, epidemiology and assessment. Other barriers to effective management include a widespread prejudice among doctors and patients concerning the use of opioids, and inadequate assessment of pain severity, resulting in the prescription of ineffective drugs or doses. This review presents an overview of the appropriate and inappropriate actions to take in the diagnosis and treatment of BTcP, as determined by a panel of experts in the field. The ultimate aim is to provide a practical contribution to the unresolved issues in the management of BTcP. Five 'things to do' and five 'things not to do' in the diagnosis and treatment of BTcP are proposed, and evidence supporting said recommendations are described. It is the duty of all healthcare workers involved in managing cancer patients to be mindful of the possibility of BTcP occurrence and not to underestimate its severity. It is vital that all the necessary steps are carried out to establish an accurate and timely diagnosis, principally by establishing effective communication with the patient, the main information source. It is crucial that BTcP is treated with an effective pharmacological regimen and drug(s), dose and administration route prescribed are designed to suit the particular type of pain and importantly the individual needs of the patient.