Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 169, Issue 1, pp 133–140 | Cite as

Living with chronic pain: perceptions of breast cancer survivors

  • Ting Bao
  • Andrew Seidman
  • Qing Li
  • Christina Seluzicki
  • Victoria Blinder
  • Salimah H. Meghani
  • John T. Farrar
  • Jun J. Mao



Breast cancer treatments may lead to chronic pain. For some breast cancer survivors (BCS), this experience can develop into the perception of living with chronic pain. The majority of BCS are postmenopausal and have hormone receptor-positive (HR+) breast cancer requiring aromatase inhibitors (AIs). Neither the prevalence nor risk factors associated with the perception of living with chronic pain among this population are well defined.


We conducted a cross-sectional survey among postmenopausal, HR+ BCS who previously took or were currently taking AIs. The primary outcome was patients’ perception of living with chronic pain over the past 6 months. We measured pain and demographic and clinical variables. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was performed to evaluate risk factors associated with the perception of chronic pain.


Among 1280 participants, 167 (13%) reported having the perception of living with chronic pain before their breast cancer diagnosis; 426 (34%) reported this perception after completion of non-hormonal cancer treatment. Seventy-eight percent of BCSs reported experiencing at least one type of treatment-related pain within the past 7 days, with 23% experiencing at least three types. The most common types of pain were AI-induced musculoskeletal pain (49%) and pain at the surgery or radiation site (31%). Younger age (< 56), BMI > 25, and the perception of living with chronic pain before diagnosis were risk factors associated with the perception of living with chronic pain.


One in three postmenopausal, HR+ BCS considered themselves to be living with chronic pain. Effective interventions to reduce chronic pain are needed.


Breast cancer Chronic pain Aromatase inhibitors Musculoskeletal pain 



This study was funded in part by a National Cancer Institute R01CA158243 (Mao) and R21CA173263 (Bao), a Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center P30 grant (P30-CA008748), and the Byrne Fund at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The funding sources had no involvement in the study design; collection, analysis and interpretation of data; writing of the report; or decision to submit the article for publication.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer CenterNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.University of Pennsylvania School of NursingPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.University of Pennsylvania Center for Clinical Epidemiology and BiostatisticsPhiladelphiaUSA

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