Characterization of Preoperative, Postsurgical, Acute and Chronic Pain in High Risk Breast Cancer Patients

Patrice Forget* (Corresponding Author), Taalke Sitter, Rosemary Hollick, Diane Dixon, Aline van Maanen, Alain Dekleermaker, Francois P. Duhoux, Marc De Kock, Martine Berliere

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract: Background: Pain after breast cancer surgery remains largely unexplained and inconsistently quantified. This study aims to describe the perioperative pain patterns in patients with breast cancer, up to two years after surgery. Methods: This is a pre-planned sub-study of the Ketorolac in Breast Cancer (KBC) trial. The KBC trial was a multicentre, prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial of a single dose of 30 mg of ketorolac just before breast cancer surgery, aiming to test its effect on recurrences. This sub-study focuses only on pain outcomes. From 2013 to 2015, 203 patients were randomised to ketorolac (n = 96) or placebo (n = 107). Structured questionnaires were delivered by telephone after one and two years, exploring the presence, location, permanence, and frequency of pain. Patients’ perceptions of pain were captured by an open-ended question, the responses to which were coded and classified using hierarchical clustering. Results: There was no difference in pain between the ketorolac and the placebo group. The reported incidence of permanent pain was 67% and 45% at one and two years, respectively. The largest category was musculoskeletal pain. Permanent pain was mainly described in patients with musculoskeletal pain. The description
of pain changed in most patients during the second postoperative year, i.e., moved from one category to another (no pain, permanent, or non-permanent pain, but also, the localisation). This phenomenon includes patients without pain at one year. Conclusions: Pain is a complex phenomenon, but also a fragile and unstable endpoint. Pain after breast cancer surgery does not necessarily mean breast pain but also musculoskeletal and other pains. The permanence of pain and the pain phenotype can change over time.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3831
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding: The Ketorolac in Breast Cancer trial has been supported by the Anticancer Fund, the Belgian Society of Anaesthesia and Resuscitation, the Fondation Saint-Luc, and the Commission du Patrimoine of the Université catholique de Louvain, Cliniques universitaires Saint-Luc.
Acknowledgments: Membership of the KBCt Group, Aline van Maanen, Gauthier Bouche, Alain Dekleermaker, Francois P Duhoux, Marc De Kock, Martine Berliere, Pierre Coulie, Jan Decloedt, Jean-Edouard Guillaume, Marc Ledent, Jean-Pascal Machiels, Véronique Mustin, Walter Swinnen, Lionel Vander Essen, and Jean-Christophe Verougstraete.


  • ketorolac
  • breast cancer
  • acute pain
  • chronic pain
  • Musculoskeletal Pain


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