Prevalence, characteristics, and impact of postmastectomy pain syndrome: an investigation of women's experiences

Pain. 1995 Apr;61(1):61-68. doi: 10.1016/0304-3959(94)00162-8.


Postmastectomy pain (PMP), a distinctive postsurgical neuropathic pain syndrome, has been thought to be consequence of 4-6% of surgical procedures for cancer of the breast, but remains understudied and poorly documented. In this cross-sectional descriptive study, a convenience sample of 95 women who had undergone breast cancer surgery was recruited from 16 ambulatory care sites. Prevalence, characteristics, and impact of the PMP syndrome were investigated using a medical record review, a patient information questionnaire, a cancer pain questionnaire and the McGill Pain Questionnaire. A 20% prevalence rate of the PMP syndrome was found. Women experiencing the syndrome reported chronic, stable pain of long duration that began shortly after surgery. They described paroxysms of lancinating pain against a background of burning, aching, tight constriction in the axilla, medial upper arm, and/or chest that significantly interfered with the performance of daily occupational and domestic activities. Data suggest that these women were undertreated and generally obtained poor pain relief from their symptoms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mastectomy / adverse effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Postoperative / epidemiology*
  • Pain, Postoperative / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Syndrome