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Indian J Palliat Care. 2009 Jul;15(2):103-7. doi: 10.4103/0973-1075.58453.

Phantom breast syndrome.

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1
Department of Surgical Oncology, Dr. BRA Institute Rotary Cancer Hospital, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India.

Abstract

Phantom breast syndrome is a type of condition in which patients have a sensation of residual breast tissue and can include both non-painful sensations as well as phantom breast pain. The incidence varies in different studies, ranging from approximately 30% to as high as 80% of patients after mastectomy. It seriously affects quality of life through the combined impact of physical disability and emotional distress. The breast cancer incidence rate in India as well as Western countries has risen in recent years while survival rates have improved; this has effectively increased the number of women for whom post-treatment quality of life is important. In this context, chronic pain following treatment for breast cancer surgery is a significantly under-recognized and under-treated problem. Various types of chronic neuropathic pain may arise following breast cancer surgery due to surgical trauma. The cause of these syndromes is damage to various nerves during surgery. There are a number of assumed factors causing or perpetuating persistent neuropathic pain after breast cancer surgery. Most well-established risk factors for developing phantom breast pain and other related neuropathic pain syndromes are severe acute postoperative pain and greater postoperative use of analgesics. Based upon current evidence, the goals of prophylactic strategies could first target optimal peri-operative pain control and minimizing damage to nerves during surgery. There is some evidence that chronic pain and sensory abnormalities do decrease over time. The main group of oral medications studied includes anti-depressants, anticonvulsants, opioids, N-methyl-D-asparate receptor antagonists, mexilitine, topical lidocaine, cannabinoids, topical capsaicin and glysine antagonists. Neuromodulation techniques such as motor cortex stimulation, spinal cord stimulation, and intrathecal drug therapies have been used to treat various neuropathic pain syndromes.

KEYWORDS:

Breast cancer; Phantom breast syndrome; Quality of life

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