Chronic pain and other sequelae in long-term breast cancer survivors: nationwide survey in Denmark

Eur J Pain. 2009 May;13(5):478-85. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2008.05.015. Epub 2008 Jul 16.


Objectives: To investigate self-reported chronic pain and other sequelae in a nationally representative sample of long-term breast cancer survivors (BCS).

Design: Age-stratified random sample of 2,000 female BCS 5 years after primary surgery without recurrence drawn from the Danish Breast Cancer Cooperative Group register, which is representative regarding long-term BCS in Denmark.

Assessment: Self-administered questionnaire including questions on sociodemography, chronic pain (6 months), health-related quality of life (HRQOL) and other sequelae related to breast cancer. Associations with treatment were investigated. Report of chronic pain was compared to normative data.

Results: The response rate was 79%. Chronic pain prevalence of 42% was significantly higher in BCS compared to general population women (SRR: 1.32; 95% CI: 1.23-1.42). Sequelae related to breast cancer were paraesthesia 47%, chronic pain 29%, arm/shoulder swelling 25%, phantom sensations 19%, and allodynia 15%. Chronic pain related to breast cancer was significantly associated with poorer HRQOL and higher medicine consumption, and, in multiple logistic regression analysis, with age (<70 years), short education, being single (divorced, widowed, separated), radiotherapy, and time since operation <10 years. Radiotherapy and younger age were significantly associated with most sequelae.

Conclusion: Chronic pain was more prevalent in BCS compared to the general population. Significant predictors for sequelae related to breast cancer were radiotherapy and younger age. Future research should therefore prioritize sequelae prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Carcinoma / complications
  • Carcinoma / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma / therapy
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Data Collection
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain, Intractable / epidemiology*
  • Pain, Intractable / etiology
  • Pain, Intractable / physiopathology
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thoracic Surgical Procedures / adverse effects
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics
  • Antineoplastic Agents