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Papers of the Week

Papers: 4 Jan 2020 - 10 Jan 2020


Human Studies

2020 Jul

J Palliat Med



Alexithymia in Family Caregivers of Advanced Cancer Patients Is Associated with High Personalized Pain Goal Scores: A Pilot Study.


Alexithymia, or difficulty identifying and describing emotions and sensations, contributes to an increased risk of chronic pain, and low help-seeking. To investigate whether family caregivers of advanced cancer patients visiting a palliative care department had alexithymia, and whether this was related to their pain intensity, personalized pain goals, and help-seeking for chronic musculoskeletal pain. A single-center cross-sectional survey. Pain intensity was evaluated using a numerical rating scale. Pain improvement was evaluated against personal goals. Alexithymia was assessed using the Toronto Alexithymia Scale-20 (TAS-20), and anxiety and depression using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Of 320 family caregivers visiting the palliative care department, 152 (47.5%) had chronic musculoskeletal pain; all 152 were included in the study. Alexithymia was observed in 36.2% of participants. Participants with higher scores on the TAS-20 tended to have higher pain intensity scores and personal pain goal scores. TAS-20 score had the strongest correlation with personal pain goals, with a correlation coefficient of 0.555 ( < 0.001). Pain intensity in family caregivers with alexithymia tended to be high. These participants set higher personal pain goals (lower goals for symptom improvement) than those without alexithymia. We found no difference in personal pain goal response between family caregivers with and without alexithymia. When we examine pain in family members with alexithymia who are caring for cancer patients, we need to recognize that they may set higher personal pain goals and seek less help.