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25.03.2020 | Original Article

Cancer survivorship and its association with perioperative opioid use for minor non-cancer surgery

Supportive Care in Cancer
Samantha Eiffert, Andrea L. Nicol, Edward F. Ellerbeck, Joanna Veazey Brooks, Andrew W. Roberts
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s00520-020-05420-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Reducing high-risk prescription opioid use after surgery has become a key strategy in mitigating the opioid crisis. Yet, despite their vulnerabilities, we know little about how cancer survivors use opioids for non-cancer perioperative pain compared to those with no history of cancer. The purpose was to examine the association of cancer survivorship with the likelihood of receiving perioperative opioid therapy for non-cancer minor surgery.


Using 2007–2014 SEER-Medicare data for breast, colorectal, prostate, and non-cancer populations, we conducted retrospective cohort study of opioid-naïve Medicare beneficiaries who underwent one of six common minor non-cancer surgeries. Modified Poisson regression estimated the relative risk of receiving a perioperative opioid prescription associated with cancer survivorship compared to no history of cancer. Stabilized inverse probability of treatment weights were used to balance measurable covariates between cohorts.


We included 1486 opioid-naïve older adult cancer survivors and 3682 opioid-naïve non-cancer controls. Cancer survivorship was associated with a 5% lower risk of receiving a perioperative opioid prescription (95% confidence interval: 0.89, 1.00; p = 0.06) compared to no history of cancer. Cancer survivorship was not associated with the extent of perioperative opioid exposure.


Cancer survivors were slightly less likely to receive opioid therapy for non-cancer perioperative pain than those without a history of cancer. It is unclear if this reflects a reduced risk of opioid-related harms for cancer survivors or avoidance of appropriate perioperative pain therapy. Further examination of cancer survivors’ experiences with and attitudes about opioids may inform improvements to non-cancer pain management for cancer survivors.

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