November 10, 2009 / 10:28 PM / 10 years ago

Pain often persists years after breast surgery

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - In a study of Danish women who had surgery for breast cancer, nearly half still reported pain 2 to 3 years later, according to a report in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

“Our study supports previous smaller studies that chronic pain after breast cancer surgery and treatment is common and needs to receive more focus in the future,” senior investigator Dr. Henrik Kehlet from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, told Reuters Health.

The findings stem from 3253 women who had surgery for breast cancer between 2005 and 2006 and who responded to a survey in 2009.

Forty-seven percent of respondents reported pain. In this group, pain was described as severe in 13 percent, moderate in 39 percent, and light in 48 percent.

Twenty percent of the women had contacted a doctor within the 3 months prior to the survey regarding their pain.

Research is needed to better understand “why some patients develop chronic pain and others do not, despite the same injury,” Kehlet said.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Loretta S. Loftus and Dr. Christine Laronga, from the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, Florida, comment that the current findings “should prove helpful in the search for achieving effective relief of pain after breast cancer surgery.”

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, November 11, 2009.

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