Research shows massage therapy benefits breast-cancer patients—by reducing depression, anxiety and anger, and increasing levels of dopamine, serotonin, natural killer cells and lymphocytes—and massage also reduces pain. New research shows many breast-cancer survivors experience persistent pain for two to three years after breast-cancer treatment.

Younger women who received supplemental radiation therapy more likely to have pain.

“Persistent postsurgical pain has been shown to be clinically relevant in many patients undergoing various common operations, including breast cancer surgery,” the researchers notes. “With breast cancer, the pathogenic mechanisms are multiple, including nerve damage related to surgical technique.

“Different types of sensory disturbances (e.g., aftersensations, burning, or sensory loss) can occur after other surgical procedures and may be an important part of the pain characteristics in breast cancer,” they continue.

Rune Gärtner, M.D., of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues examined the prevalence, associated factors, and severity of chronic pain and sensory disturbances an average of 26 months after surgery for breast cancer of 3,754 women, ages 18 to 70 years, who received a questionnaire between January and April 2008. By June 2008, 87 percent (3,253) of eligible women returned the questionnaire.

The researchers found that:
• A total of 1,543 patients (47 percent) reported pain in 1 or more areas, of which 13 percent reported severe pain, 39 percent reported moderate pain, and 48 percent reported light pain.

• Among women reporting severe pain, 77 percent experienced pain every day, whereas only 36 percent of women experiencing light pain had pain every day.

• Adjuvant radiation therapy, but not chemotherapy, increased the risk of reporting pain. Axillary lymph node dissection was associated with increased likelihood of pain or sensory disturbances, compared with sentinel lymph node dissection.

• “There was a significant association of age on reporting pain, where young age was associated with higher risk, especially for patients receiving breast-conserving surgery (BCS), the risk being highest for those women aged 18 to 39 years receiving BCS compared with women aged 60 to 69 years,” the authors write.

The article ran in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Related articles:
Massage Versus Relaxation for Breast Cancer

Aromatherapy Massage Decreases Anxiety Among Women with Breast Cancer

Massage Relieves Nausea in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy

Massage Benefits Women with Breast Cancer

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