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Chronic Pain Can Be a Problem Years After Breast Surgery

Danish study finds 47 percent of women report chronic pain after their surgery

TUESDAY, Nov. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Despite breast-conserving surgery and other advances, post-breast surgery pain and sensory disturbances remained problems for many women in a Danish survey reported in the Nov. 11 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Rune Gärtner, M.D., of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, and colleagues circulated a questionnaire to 3,754 Danish women who had breast cancer surgery (and adjuvant therapy, as indicated) in 2005 and 2006. The questionnaire -- sent an average of 26 months after surgery -- elicited information on persistent pain and sensory disturbances post-surgery for 12 defined treatment groups. The researchers calculated adjusted odds ratios for pain and sensory disturbances in relation to age, surgical technique used, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The researchers found that 47 percent of respondents reported pain, with 48 percent of those reporting light pain, 39 percent moderate pain, and 13 percent severe pain. Among the factors associated with chronic pain were ages 18 to 39 (odds ratio, 3.62), adjuvant radiotherapy (odds ratio, 1.50), and axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) (odds ratio, 1.77). Chemotherapy was not associated with increased pain risk (odds ratio, 1.01). For sensory disturbances, risk was increased for ages 18 to 39 (odds ratio, 5.00), and ALND (odds ratio, 4.97).

"Although breast-conserving surgery and sentinel node dissection have reduced complaints, future strategies for further improvement should include nerve-sparing axillary dissection and attention to patients with other chronic pain symptoms," the authors write.

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