A retrospective cohort study of post mastectomy pain syndrome

W C S Smith, D Bourne, J Squair, D O Phillips, W A Chambers

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228 Citations (Scopus)


Post mastectomy pain syndrome is a condition which can occur following breast surgery and has until recently been regarded as uncommon. Recent reports have suggested that it may affect 20% or more of women following mastectomy. The symptoms are distressing and may be difficult to treat however treatment for neuropathic pain can be successful. This paper reports a retrospective cohort of consecutive mastectomy cases over a six year period in one region of whom 511 survivors were traced and eligible for survey. A total of 408 completed a questionnaire survey which revealed that 175 (43%) had ever suffered from postmastectomy pain syndrome and 119 (29%) reported current symptoms although the majority were decreasing in intensity. A striking finding was the very high cumulative prevalence in younger women (65%) decreasing to 26% in the over 70 year group. The details of the onset, frequency and intensity of symptoms are described along with their natural history. The age effect on the frequency of the syndrome influences the marital status, employment status, housing, and educational status of those who report typical symptoms. Body weight and height are also associated with the frequency of post mastectomy pain syndrome. Relationship between the frequency of post mastectomy pain syndrome and radiotherapy, chemotherapy and the use of tamoxifen are difficult to unravel because of the combinations of pre and post operative treatments received confounded by age. The implications of a much higher frequency of post mastectomy pain are discussed with regard to management and counselling. The high frequency of the syndrome in the younger women is important and possible explanations are explored. (C) 1999 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-95
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • pain
  • post mastectomy pain syndrome
  • mastectomy, breast surgery
  • neuropathic pain


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