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A study looking at how cancer pain is assessed and treated when people go into hospital (EPAT)

Please note - this trial is no longer recruiting patients. We hope to add results when they are available.

This study is looking at how doctors and nurses measure and treat cancer pain. The researchers want to see if introducing a new system will help them to do this better. Many people with cancer have pain at some point. It is important for doctors and nurses to have a good way of assessing pain. If your pain is properly assessed, it is more likely to be well controlled. This trial is supported by Cancer Research UK.

A team of researchers in Edinburgh have developed a method of helping doctors and nurses to measure cancer pain. It is called the Edinburgh Pain Assessment Tool (EPAT). Some extra charts and forms are kept at the bedside to make sure this is done at the same time as the other regular checks you have in hospital, such as your temperature and blood pressure. The researchers have also developed a training course for doctors and nurses, which aims to help them understand and treat pain.

The researchers hope that using this tool, and giving staff the extra training, will help hospitals to provide the best pain relief for patients as quickly as possible.

In this study, the researchers want to compare hospitals using EPAT with hospitals where the staff assess and treat pain in the usual way. The aim of the study is to find out if using EPAT improves the way pain is assessed and treated when you go into hospital.


Start 06/12/2007
End 31/08/2012



Who can enter

You can enter this trial if you

  • Have cancer and are admitted to one of the hospitals taking part in the study
  • Have a pain score of at least 4 (on a 0 to 10 pain scale)
  • Are at least 18 years old
  • Are likely to stay in hospital for at least 3 days

You cannot enter this trial if you

  • Do not have any pain related to your cancer
  • Are not well enough to take part in the study

Trial design

This study will recruit 1,900 people in 19 cancer centres around the UK.

Every hospital taking part will recruit 100 people. The first 50 people at each hospital will have their pain assessed and treated in the usual way. This is to find out how doctors and nurses currently manage people’s pain.

Then for the next 50 people, half the hospitals will use EPAT to assess pain and guide the medical and nursing staff in pain management. The other half will continue to assess and manage pain in the usual way (this is called the standard treatment).

The researchers will talk to all 100 patients at each hospital. A nurse from the study team will ask you to fill in a questionnaire when you first go into hospital, and again 3 days later. The questionnaire will ask about any pain you have and it will look at how it has been assessed and treated by the doctors and nurses looking after you. It will take about 10 to 15 minutes each time.

The nurse will look at your medical notes to find out more about your illness and any painkillers you are having. If you are still in hospital a week later, they will ask you to fill in another questionnaire.

If you have another stay in hospital later on, the researchers may ask you to complete the questionnaires again during that time.

Hospital visits

You will not have to make any extra visits to hospital if you take part in this study.

Side effects

If you are at a hospital where pain is assessed and managed in the usual way, taking part in this study will not affect how your pain is treated or increase the risk of any side effects.

It is possible that if you are in a hospital using EPAT, you may have more painkillers. Strong painkillers do sometimes have side effects, for example, making you drowsy. The researchers want to try and make sure that people in hospitals using EPAT do not have more side effects. So if they find that you are having side effects from your painkillers, they will discuss this with your doctor. Your medication may then be changed.

Location of trial


For more information

Please note: we cannot help you to join a specific trial. Unless we state otherwise in this trial summary, you need to print this page and take it to your own doctor to discuss.

Find out how to join a trial or contact our cancer information nurses for other questions about cancer by phone (0808 800 4040), by email, or at

The Information Nurses
Cancer Research UK
Angel Building
407 St John Street

Chief Investigator

Professor Marie Fallon

This is Cancer Research UK trial number CRUK/07/051.

Supported by

Cancer Research UK
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
Lothian Health Board
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
University of Edinburgh
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Updated: 31 August 2012