Persistent Pain after Surgery
Some women, after breast surgery, report pain or discomfort that persists for a very long time. Interestingly, a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that women who underwent a wide excision/lumpectomy were most likely to experience lasting pain. Here are a few quotes from the study and then a link to read more:
Almost half of women who have breast cancer surgery still have pain or numbness two to three years later, according to a new study. Women younger than 40 who receive lumpectomies are at the greatest risk. In general, women are most likely to have pain or a loss of sensation in the breast region, followed by the armpit, the arm, and their sides. However, 40 percent of women with lingering symptoms have pain in parts of the body not affected by treatment, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In the study of 3,754 breast cancer survivors ages 18 to 70, 47 percent had pain in one or more area, and 58 percent reported problems in the treated breast, including burning and a loss of sensation for one to three years after their surgery. Overall, 13 percent of women with lingering problems said their pain was severe, 39 percent said it was moderate, and 48 percent reported light pain. And 76 percent of patients with severe pain said they ached every day.
Women at the greatest risk for chronic pain were ages 18 to 39 and had undergone breast-conserving surgery, or lumpectomy, in which doctors remove only the tumor and some surrounding tissue. Other risk factors for persistent pain included radiation therapy, which is directed at the breast area to destroy any remaining cancer cells after surgery.
There are several reasons that breast cancer survivors experience pain such as nerve damage or injury from the surgery or radiation, but in the future, nerve-sparing surgery may help take the sting out of this persistent pain, according to study authors led by Dr. Rune Gärtner, of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.