Terramed Alliance News Nearly half of all breast cancer patients experienced chronic pain two to three years after treatment and more than half felt discomfort, according to a study by Danish researchers published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the New York Times reports. The study found that women younger than age 40, those who underwent radiation treatment and those who had surgery to remove lymph nodes in the armpit are most likely to experience lingering pain.
In an accompanying editorial, Loretta Loftus, a senior member of the breast cancer program at the Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, wrote, “This should alert clinicians who are caring for these patients to pay more attention to those who are in the high risk groups for pain” (Caryn Rabin, New York Times, 11/10).
Researchers examined a 2009 survey of 3,253 Danish women who had breast cancer surgery in 2005 and 2006, Reuters reports. Forty-seven percent of the patients reported pain. Within that group, 13% described the pain as severe, 39% described it as moderate and 48% said it was light. Twenty percent of the women surveyed said they had contacted a physician within the last three months regarding their pain (Brown, Reuters, 11/10). Women of all ages who had mastectomies were more likely to have severe pain than light pain. Pain most frequently occurred in the breast that was operated upon, in the chest area where tissue was removed, in the upper arm where lymph nodes were removed or along one side of the body, according to U.S. News & World Report’s “On Women.”
“This study isn’t saying to change treatment recommendations based on whether or not a certain treatment is likely to be associated with pain,” Loftus said, adding, “But it’s telling oncologists that they need to be more alert to the incidence of pain,” she said (Kotz, “On Women,” U.S. News & World Report, 11/10). The study’s author, Henrik Kehlet of the University of Copenhagen, said more research is needed to determine why some women experience lingering pain and others do not (Szabo, USA Today, 11/11).
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