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Breast. 2018 Dec;42:113-127. doi: 10.1016/j.breast.2018.08.105. Epub 2018 Sep 4.

Prevalence of pain in patients with breast cancer post-treatment: A systematic review.

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Odette Cancer Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Odette Cancer Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada. Electronic address:



To evaluate the prevalence and severity of persistent pain after breast cancer treatment (PPBCT) in patients who received surgery, radiotherapy or a combination of treatments and to explore how different treatments and techniques impact pain.


Medline, Embase and Cochrane Central databases were searched for articles which evaluated the prevalence of PPBCT. Search results were limited to studies addressing chronic post-surgical pain (CPSP), persistent post-surgical pain (PPSP), post-mastectomy pain syndrome (PMPS) or radiotherapy (RT) related pain in breast cancer patients and published in the English language. The primary outcome was the incidence or severity of PPBCT. Descriptive analyses were performed.


A total of 177 studies were included in this review. Overall, pain prevalence was 29.8% amongst 3746 patients (Group 1: 30 studies) post-surgery, 27.3% post-RT (Group 2: 41 studies, n = 15 019), and 21.8% amongst BC survivors who reported on the general prevalence of after receiving various combinations of BC treatment (Group 3: 106 studies, n = 135 437).


PPBCT remains to be a prevalent and complex clinical issue, despite a variety of different techniques and treatments. Various factors such as varying definitions of pain, inconsistent use of assessment tools and differences in methodology between studies may contribute to discrepancies in reports of PPBCT. A greater understanding of BC treatments and their impact on PPBCT may help identify potential risk factors, prevention and pain management strategies.


Breast cancer; Oncology; Pain; Pain management; Radiotherapy; Surgery

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