Background: The current study sought to explore whether cancer pain (CP) already exists in patients at colorectal cancer (CRC) diagnosis before treatment compared with patients with colorectal cancer (CRC) after treatment and a healthy matched control group. The study also sought to examine whether factors related to physical health status could enhance pain processes.
Methods: An observational cross-sectional study was conducted following the STROBE checklist. Twenty-nine newly diagnosed and forty post-treatment patients with CRC and 40 healthy age/sex-matched controls were included for comparison. Pain, local muscle function, and body composition outcomes were assessed by a physiotherapist with > 3 years of experience. ANCOVA and Kruskal-Wallis tests were performed, with Bonferroni and Dunn-Bonferroni post hoc analyses and Cohen's d and Hedge's effect size, as appropriate.
Results: The analysis detected lower values of pressure pain threshold (PPT) points, the PPT index, and abdominal strength and higher values of self-reported abdominal pain in newly diagnosed patients, with even more marked results observed in the post-treatment patients, where lower lean mass and skeletal muscle index values were also found than those in the healthy matched controls (p < 0.05). In the post-treatment and healthy matched control groups, positive associations were observed between the PPT lumbar dominant side points and abdominal isometric strength and lean mass, and negative associations were observed between the lumbar dominant side points and body fat (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: Upon diagnosis, patients with CRC already show signs of hyperalgesia and central sensitization and deteriorated physical conditions and body composition, and this state could be aggravated by subsequent treatments.
Keywords: Body composition; Cancer pain; Colorectal cancer; Muscle strength; Pain measurement.