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Study: Breast Cancer Cured But Pain Survives

According to a report in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association the pain exists even two or three years following treatment.  Almost 60% of the over 3,000 women surveyed experience other symptoms of nerve damage, such as numbness or tenderness, according to a study of women treated for breast cancer in 2005 and 2006. 

The researchers noted that women under 40 and those who have more extensive surgery, such as a mastectomy, and radiation are the most likely to report pain.  Women, they report, also have more pain if surgeons removed many of the lymph nodes in their armpits, a common place for breast cancer to spread.

Most breast cancer patients can ease their symptoms with over-the-counter pain relievers.  Every year nearly 700,000 American women are diagnosed with cancer according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  About one in four women are diagnosed with breast cancer and as a result of early detection and improved treatment, most survice.

 

While the medical experts explain that it is not always possible to prevent chronic pain, there are ways women can reduce their risk.

 

Women should choose doctors who perform “sentinel-node” biopsies, one of the experts writing in the Journal noted. In the procedure, surgeons remove and test one or a few key lymph node for malignant cells instead of automatically removing all of the nodes. If the sentinel node is cancer-free, surgeons leave the others in place. The procedure also reduces the risk of lymphedema, a painful swelling in the arm.

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