Women experience similar levels of chronic pain as men, say UCSF researchers

By Rebecca Sladek Nowlis on January 28, 2000

Although numerous studies have reported that women suffer from acute pain more
intensely than men, new findings suggest that these gender differences don’t
hold for chronic pain.

In a study of 175 cancer patients whose cancer had spread to their bone,
University of California, San Francisco researchers found no differences
between men and women in their experiences of pain intensity, quality of life,
or mood.

The researchers will present their findings as part of a symposium on gender
and health issues at the 11th International Congress on Women’s Health Issues
held in San Francisco on Thursday, January 27, 2000.  The Congress is sponsored
by the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Nursing in
affiliation with the International Council on Women’s Health Issues and other
co-sponsoring institutions.

Almost all cancers can spread to bone, and the condition, called bone
metastasis, is extremely painful, said Christine Miaskowski, RN, PhD, FAAN,
UCSF professor of physiological nursing, School of Nursing and principal
investigator of the study.  Patients are put on large doses of analgesics, or
pain relievers, but often these drugs only dull the pain rather than get rid of
it.

An analysis of four questionnaires given to adult patients with bone metastasis
revealed that men and women have similar experiences in dealing with chronic
pain, the researchers reported.  “Although research suggests that chronic pain
may occur more frequently in women in the form of migraines or joint pain, it
doesn’t appear to be any more intense,” said Miaskowski.

The researchers did find, however, that cancer pain interferes with sexual
activity to a greater degree in men than in women.  Other activities—such as
walking, sleep, and work—were affected to similar degrees.

In addition to Miaskowski, co-authors of the study include Claudia West, RN,
MS, UCSF associate clinical professor of physiological nursing; Marylin Dodd,
RN, PhD, FAAN, UCSF professor of physiological nursing and acting dean of the
School of Nursing; Steven Paul, PhD, UCSF senior statistician, School of
Nursing; Peter Koo, PharmD, UCSF pharmacology specialist; and Debu Tripathy,
MD, UCSF assistant clinical professor of medicine, hematology, and oncology.

The symposium on gender and health issues will also include research on women’s
health in the Gaza Strip, a survey of female burn survivors in Bangkok, and
gender issues surrounding nurse and physician interactions.

More information about the Congress, including a complete program of events, is
available at http://nurseweb.ucsf.edu/www/icowhi.htm.