In the English-speaking world, the current approach gives special status to the recurring paroxysmal pain that occurs in cancer patients.

For more than 20 years, recurring paroxysmal pain in cancer patients has been described as “breakthrough pain”. Breakthrough pain is a heterogeneous condition that can be divided into two types:

1. Incident pain induced by

  • Voluntary actions such as movement, getting washed, dressed
  • Involuntary and unpredictable actions such as coughing, hiccups, etc.

2. Spontaneous pain that is also unpredictable, but for which no predisposing factor is evident.

The advantage of talking about breakthrough pain as its own entity, with its own terminology is that the concept of a rescue dose is back in the limelight.

Some people would prefer using the term “breakthrough pain syndrome” exclusively to describe “paroxysmal pain with a quick onset and short duration in cancer patients who are already being well treated for the background cancer pain”.