(HealthDay News) — Most women with unilateral non-metastasized breast cancer treated with breast-conserving surgery or mastectomy with axillary surgery experience postoperative pain at 12 months, according to a research letter published in the Jan. 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Tuomo J. Meretoja, MD, PhD, from Helsinki University Central Hospital, and colleagues examined the prevalence and severity of and factors associated with chronic pain after breast cancer surgery using data from 860 patients aged younger than 75 years with unilateral non-metastasized breast cancer. 

Participants were treated with either breast-conserving surgery or mastectomy with axillary surgery in 2006 to 2010 and completed a questionnaire 12 months after surgery to assess the presence and intensity of pain.

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The researchers found that 24% of patients had a chronic pain condition. At 12 months after surgery, 34.5% reported no pain, while 49.7%, 12.1%, and 3.7% of patients reported mild, moderate, and severe pain, respectively. 

Chronic preoperative pain, preoperative pain in the area to be operated, preoperative depression, axillary lymph node dissection, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy were significantly associated with pain at 12 months.

“These findings may be useful in developing strategies for preventing persistent pain following breast cancer treatment,” the authors wrote.

One author disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies, including Orion Pharma. The Orion-Pharmos Research Foundation partially funded the study.


  1. Meretoja TJ, Leidenius MHK, Tasmuth T, et al. Pain at 12 Months After Surgery for Breast Cancer. JAMAJAMA. 2014;311(1):90-92.