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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter July 1, 2012

Persistent pain, sensory disturbances and functional impairment after adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer

  • Kenneth Geving Andersen , Maj-Britt Jensen , Henrik Kehlet , Rune Gärtner , Lise Eckhoff and Niels Kroman



Persistent pain after breast cancer treatment (PPBCT) is a considerable clinical problem affecting between 25 and 60% of breast cancer survivors [1]. Several risk factors have been proposed, among them nerve damage caused by adjuvant treatment [2]. Taxanes used in adjuvant therapy for breast cancer are neurotoxic, and thereby being a potential risk factor for PPBCT and sensory disturbances. However, the long term influence of taxanes on PPBCT is not well documented. Thus, the aim of this study was therefore to compare a nationwide cohort treated with cyclophosphamide and epirubicin + docetaxel (CE + T) versus a nationwide cohort treated with cyclophosphamide, epirubicin and fluoruracil (CEF), in order to assess differences in reporting of PPBCT, sensory disturbances in surgical area, symmetric peripheral sensory disturbances, and functional impairment.


A comparative nationwide cross-sectional questionnaire study on two cohorts treated with CEF respectively CE + T, based on the Danish Breast Cancer Cooperative Groups database. Inclusion criteria were identical i both cohorts: women treated with adjuvant chemotherapy for primary breast cancer, age 18–69 years, without recurrence. Exclusion criteria: bilateral or previous breast surgery, including reconstructive surgery. The same questionnaire [1] was used for both cohorts and contained detailed questions regarding pain intensity and frequency and sensory disturbances in the breast area, side of chest, axilla and arm, bilateral peripheral sensory disturbances in the hands and feet, and questions regarding daily activities.


1241 patients treated with CEF in 2005-2006 and 1652 patients treated with CE + T in 2007–2008 were included. 664 (54%) with CEF and 861 (53%) patients with CE+T reported PPBCT. In the multivariate analysis including available risk factors, CE + T did not increase risk of PPBCT, adjusted OR 0.95 (95%C10.81–1.11), p = 0.52, compared to CEF. Patients treated with CE + T had a lower risk of sensory disturbances in the area of surgery compared with CEF, adjusted OR 0.75 (95%C1 0.62–0.90), p = 0.002. More CE+T patients reported peripheral sensory disturbances in the hands, adjusted OR 1.56 (95%C11.27–1.92), p < 0.0001, and in the feet, adjusted OR 2.0 (95%C1 1.66–2.42), p < 0.0001, compared to CEF. There was no difference in functional impairment (p = 0.62).


Docetaxcel as adjuvant treatment for breast cancer does not increase the risk of PPBCT, sensory disturbances in the surgical area or functional impairment, but increase the risk for peripheral sensory disturbances.


[1] Gartner R, Jensen MB, Nielsen J, Ewertz M, Kroman N, Kehlet H. Prevalence of and factors associated with persistent pain following breast cancer surgery. JAMA 2009;302(18):1985–92.10.1001/jama.2009.1568Search in Google Scholar PubMed

[2] Andersen KG, Kehlet H. Persistent pain after breast cancer treatment: a critical review of risk factors and strategies for prevention. Journal of Pain 2011;12(7):725–46.10.1016/j.jpain.2010.12.005Search in Google Scholar PubMed

Published Online: 2012-07-01
Published in Print: 2012-07-01

© 2012 Scandinavian Association for the Study of Pain

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