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The purpose of this retrospective study was to determine the prevalence of alcoholism among terminally ill cancer patients when assessed by multidisciplinary interviews and by the CAGE Questionnaire. We reviewed the charts of 100 consecutive patients assessed by a multidisciplinary team for the presence of alcoholism during 1989, and 100 consecutive patients assessed by the CAGE Questionnaire during 1992. Alcoholism was diagnosed in 28/100 patients during 1989 (28%) and 18/66 patients during 1992 (27%). Thirty-four patients were unable to complete the CAGE Questionnaire in 1992 because of sedation or cognitive impairment; six of these patients (17%) were found to be alcoholics after multidisciplinary assessment. Only 9/28 (32%) and 8/24 (33%) patients diagnosed as alcoholics during 1989 and 1992, respectively, had been previously diagnosed as alcoholics according to the medical charts. The mean equivalent daily dose of morphine during admission and on Day 2 during 1992 were 1.53±193 mg and 183±198 for alcoholic patients, versus 58±80 and 70±79 mg for nonalcoholics (P = 0.06 and 0.03, respectively). The maximal dose of opioid and the pain intensity during admission, however, were not significantly different between alcoholics and nonalcoholics. Our results suggest that alcoholism is highly prevalent and underdiagnosed among symptomatic terminally ill cancer patients. The CAGE Questionnaire should be used for screening for alcoholism in this population. When multidimensional assessment and management of pain is applied, the outcome of alcoholic patients appears to be similar to that of nonalcoholics.
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Accepted: March 31, 1995
© 1995 Published by Elsevier Inc.