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17.05.2019 | Original Article

Pain descriptors of taxane acute pain syndrome (TAPS) in breast cancer patients—a prospective clinical study

Supportive Care in Cancer
PhD Student Rashi Asthana, PhD Liying Zhang, Bo Angela Wan, PharmD Daniela Gallo-Hershberg, BSc Pharm Angie Giotis, PharmD Mark Pasetka, PhD Jenna van Draanen, Shannon Goodall, PhD Patrick L. Diaz, Leah Drost, MBBS, M.Sc., PhD, FRCPC Edward Chow, PharmD Carlo De Angelis
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s00520-019-04845-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Taxane acute pain syndrome (TAPS) is a clinically significant side-effect of taxane chemotherapy, often described as arthralgia and myalgia that occurs 2–3 days after infusion. The aim of this study was to assess pain descriptors used by patients during their experience of TAPS.


A clinical prospective cohort study was conducted on breast cancer patients who had not received prior chemotherapy and were asked to complete diaries on three consecutive docetaxel treatment cycles on days 1–7, 14, and 21 (acute phase). Questionnaires to assess pain severity, descriptors of pain, and the interference in activities due to pain were adapted from the Brief Pain Inventory and the McGill Pain Questionnaire. Telephone questionnaire follow-up was done at 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months following docetaxel (delayed phase).


The most commonly used descriptor for acute and chronic pain was “aching” (90–96%). However, in the delayed phase of the study, “burning” (32–50%), “radiating” (39–48%), and “sharp” (40–69%) were used more often. In both acute and chronic pain phases, most patients experienced moderate/severe pain regardless of the location. Pain in cycle 1 was predictive of pain in subsequent taxane cycles (p < 0.0001). Pain in cycle 3 was predictive of chronic pain (p < 0.002).


The descriptors used by patients experiencing chemotherapy-induced pain (ChIP) may be reflective of the underlying mechanisms. It is suspected that TAPS initiates as an acute inflammatory pain, which over time develops into neuropathic pain, known as chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). However, the subjective pain experience varies from patient to patient.

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