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The Royal Marsden School

Exploring the complexity of cancer-related pain



Delivery method


Length of module

This is an online module and will be delivered via the virtual learning environment, the content will be delivered over 5 days and on day 6 learners will be invited to attend for the summative assessment.

Academic credits and level

20 credits at level 7

Entry requirements

Applicants should currently be registered healthcare professionals working with people affected by cancer

Course summary

Are you a health care professional caring for patients with cancer-related pain? This module will explore a wide variety of topics surrounding cancer-related pain and will give you a deeper insight into how to care for an individual living with cancer-related pain.

Cancer-related pain is complex, multifactorial and has a detrimental impact on individuals’ quality of life as it impacts not only the physical domains, but also a significant impact on psychosocial domains. Despite the complex nature of persistent cancer pain, it remains poorly understood and managed.

The aim of this module is to explore all aspects of cancer-related pain from the physiological, social, psychology spiritual, and cultural factors that impact on an individual’s journey through cancer treatment. The module will equip you with the knowledge and skills in order to effectively assess and manage cancer related pain in individuals living with and beyond a cancer diagnosis. 

Key topics

  • Prevalence and impact of cancer related pain within society.
  • Exploration of pain definitions and concepts of ‘total pain’ and ‘biopsychosocial’ models.
  • Pain physiology including mechanisms of nociceptive, neuropathic pain and the development from acute to chronic pain.
  • Holistic needs of the family / career of the individual living with and beyond cancer related pain.
  • Discuss the pharmacodynamics and evidence base for opioid and non-opioid analgesia
  • Discuss the role of non-pharmacological strategies and their evidence base.
  • Understand the role of interventional analgesia such as regional blocks and intrathecal opioid pumps in the management of complex cancer pain. 

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the module at Level 7 you should be able to demonstrate achievement of the following learning outcomes:

  • Examine and comprehensively understand the physiological mechanisms involved in cancer pain transmissions and outline the difference between acute, chronic, nociceptive and neuropathic pain states
  • Critically explore the concept of ‘total pain’ and relate this back to the individual living with and beyond cancer
  • Demonstrate the ability to perform a holistic pain assessment that addresses all aspects of the ‘total pain’ experience and critically discuss the use of an appropriate pain assessment tool
  • Critically discuss the role of the wider interdisciplinary team and explore their roles in the assessment and management of cancer pain
  • Develop a pain management plan that addresses the total pain experience by adopting non-pharmacological and pharmacological treatment modalities with a critical discussion of the rationale for your choices 


Dates to be confirmed - coming later in the 2021/22 academic year. Applications received will be given priority and at least 3 months' notice of the dates.


There is a two-part assessment for this module:

  • Part one will be a case study presentation.
  • Part two will be an evaluative conversation between the learner and a member of the module team.

Student support

Tutorials with the module leader or personal tutor are available if students require additional help with the planning and writing of their assignments. Email and telephone support are also available from the module leader/personal tutor.

The Royal Marsden School uses an online environment called Moodle which students must access during their studies to support and enhance our courses. The site provides resources and communication tools. All students will be provided with a username and password to access module specific sections as well as general learning support such as study skills and library resources. Students also have access to the David Adams Library and Electronic Resource Centre. 

To get the best from the live video-conferencing sessions and enable you to participate fully you should have access to a computer or laptop with a camera and microphone. If you have any concerns or need help, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Related pathways

This is a stand alone module and currently it cannot be taken as a part of any of our programmes.

This course is currently unavailable.