, Volume 80, Issue 1, pp 39-48

Pain and Quality of Life after Surgery for Breast Cancer

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Abstract

Background. In breast cancer (BC) patients, conservative surgery (CS) followed by irradiation or immediate breast reconstruction (IBR) after modified radical mastectomy (MRM) has been proposed in the attempt to avoid the negative impact of MRM on feminine body image. Regardless of the type of operation, BC patients may feel pain even without recurrent disease with poor adjustment in terms of quality of life (QL).

Methods. We adopted a questionnaire comprising the short form of the McGill Pain questionnaire, and a previously validated questionnaire able to identify four subscales exploring physical well-being, physical autonomy, relational life and psychological well-being. The questionnaire was mailed in 1999 to a consecutive series of 757 (CS: 481 cases; MRM + IBR with skin expander: 93 cases; MRM: 183 cases) disease-free patients treated for BC between March 1995 and March 1998.

Results. The final analysis assessed the data relating to 529 patients who underwent axillary dissection. Pain was reported by 39.7% of women with higher incidence in patients who underwent CS than in those who underwent MRM ± IBR, but this difference did not reach statistical significance (p = 0.07). The only statistically significant difference (p < 0.05) between the surgical groups was the pain appearance that occurred earlier in the CS patients and later in the MRM + IBR patients. No other differences were observed. The women with pain had significantly worse QL scores on all of the subscales than those without.

Conclusion. Pain after surgery for BC distress almost one-third of patients, regardless of the type of treatment, and had a negative effect on patients' QL. The different surgical procedures may marginally influence the quantitative characteristics of pain.