Racial disparities in opioid prescription and pain management among breast cancer survivors

Sunny Jung Kim, Reuben P. Retnam, Arnethea L. Sutton, Megan C. Edmonds, Dipankar Bandyopadhyay, Vanessa B. Sheppard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: We examined whether there are racial disparities in pain management, opioid medicine prescriptions, symptom severity, and quality of life constructs in breast cancer survivors. Methods: We conducted a secondary analysis of longitudinal data from the Women's Hormonal Therapy Initiation and Persistence (WHIP) study (n = 595), a longitudinal study of hormonal receptor-positive breast cancer survivors. Upon study enrollment, patients completed a survey assessing an array of psychological, behavioral, and treatment outcomes, including adjuvant endocrine therapy (AET)-induced symptoms, and provided a saliva biospecimen. Opioid prescription records were extracted from the health maintenance organizations (HMOs) pharmacy database. The final analytic sample included women with complete HMO pharmacy records for 1 year. Results: There were 251 eligible patients, of which 169 (67.3%) were White. The average age was 61.09 years old (SD = 11.07). One hundred seventy-two patients (68.5%) had received at least one opioid medication and 37.1% were prescribed opioids longer than 90 days (n = 93). Sixty-four Black patients (78%) had a record of being prescribed with opioids compared to 64% of White patients (n = 108, p = 0.03). Black patients reported worse vasomotor, neuropsychological, and gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as lower quality of life and greater healthcare discrimination than White patients (p's < 0.05). Black patients were more likely to be prescribed opioids for 90 days or longer compared to White patients, when controlling for age, marital status, income, body mass index (BMI), cancer stage, and chemotherapy status (adjusted Odds Ratio = 2.72, p = 0.014). Conclusion: Findings indicate that there are racial differences in opioid prescriptions supplied for pain management and symptomatic outcomes. Future research is needed to understand the causes of disparities in cancer pain management and symptomatic outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10851-10864
Number of pages14
JournalCancer Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 2023


  • cancer patients
  • opioids
  • pain management disparity


Dive into the research topics of 'Racial disparities in opioid prescription and pain management among breast cancer survivors'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this