Post-mastectomy pain syndrome (PMPS) is a recognised complication of breast surgery although little is known about the long-term outcome of this chronic pain condition. In 1996, Smith et al identified a prevalence rate of PMPS of 43% among 408 women in the Grampian Region, Northeast Scotland. The aim of this study was to assess long-term outcome at 7-12 years postoperatively in this cohort of women, to describe the natural history of PMPS and impact of pain upon quality of life. Chronic pain and quality of life were assessed using the McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ) and Short Form-36 (SF-36). Of 175 women reporting PMPS in 1996, 138 were eligible for questionnaire follow-up in 2002. Mean time since surgery was 9 years (s.d. 1.8 years). A response rate of 82% (113 out of 138) was achieved; 59 out of 113 (52%) women reported continued PMPS and 54 out of 113 (48%) women reported their PMPS had resolved since the previous survey in 1996. Quality of life scores were significantly lower in women with persistent PMPS compared to those women whose pain had resolved. However, for women with persistent PMPS, SF-36 scores had improved over time. Risk factors for persistent PMPS included younger age and heavier weight. This study found that, of women reporting PMPS in 1996, half of those surveyed in 2002 continued to experience PMPS at a mean of 9 years after surgery.