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Many Women have Persistent Pain after Surgery

Posted 1/23/2013

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It is both distressing and confirming to see the study from the American Pain Journal. I surely have known women through the years who suffered from chronic pain for months, even years, after surgery. Frankly, most of those women had reconstructive surgery, not "just" mastectomies or lumpectomies. The pain seemed related to the reconstruction part of the surgery, often located in the "donor" area (e.g. the back or abdomen). I have known quite a few women who described constant discomfort, not quite pain, after reconstruction, but felt that they eventually adapted to it. Their description is often of "wearing a bra that is a couple of sizes too tight." Others describe shoulder or arm pain or, per above, aches in the back or abdomen.

Like everything else in life, this has seemed to fall along a bell curve, and most women don't have big trouble. This article presents a more disturbing picture of 25% of women post breast surgery experiencing persistent pain. This includes women who had smaller surgeries, but does not seem to differentiate between those who had a sentinel node dissection and those who had a full axillary dissection. I am guessing that the full dissection probably led to more problems, but, perhaps, not.

If this is a problem for you, I would strongly suggest that you find and work with a physical therapist with expertise in women post breast surgery. They can often be really helpful.

Here is a quote from NewsWise and a link to read more:

One-Fourth of Breast Cancer Surgery Patients Have Persistent Pain


Released: 1/16/2013 10:30 AM EST Source: American Pain Society Newswise — GLENVIEW, IL, Jan. 16, 2013 – Some 25 percent of breast cancer surgery patients experience significant, persistent pain six months after the procedure, and new research published in The Journal of Pain showed that women with preoperative breast pain have the highest risk for extended post-surgical pain. The Journal of Pain is the peer-review publication of the American Pain Society,

Researchers from the University of California San Francisco studied 400 women who had breast cancer surgery and followed them monthly for six months to determine the prevalence of persistent pain in the breast and to characterize distinct breast pain phenotypes. This was the first study to identify subgroups of patients with distinct, persistent breast pain following breast cancer surgery.

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