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Warwick develops breast cancer pain prediction tool

A researcher from Warwick Medical School is part of a European team who have developed an online tool and an app for predicting the chance of women developing persistent pain after breast cancer surgery.

Persistent pain after breast cancer surgery is a well-recognised problem, with moderate to severe pain affecting 15% to 20% of women one year after breast cancer surgery.

Dr Julie Bruce, Principal Research Fellow from the Warwick Clinical Trials Unit, led a study to collect pain and quality of life data from women undergoing breast cancer surgery in northeast Scotland. Working with colleagues in Finland and Denmark, the team then developed and tested prediction models for persistent postoperative pain using data sets from three countries. Prediction models were developed using data from 860 patients in Finland, and these models were then tested in two independent cohorts from Denmark and Scotland.

Several risk factors have been recognised, including a woman’s age, body mass index and the level of pain experienced before and immediately after their breast surgery. Until now, there has been a lack of tools available for clinicians to identify potentially high-risk patients. Rather than a widespread treatment approach, preoperative screening could help identify who is most at risk and may help target preventative interventions.

Dr Bruce said: “We have used the findings from these European studies to develop an easy-to-use risk calculator, available for use from a smartphone app. We hope that as new studies are published, we can refine the prediction model further. Clinicians can use the tool to help identify high-risk patients and make sure they’re supported throughout their recovery.”

Find out more about the study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The tool is available online here or can be downloaded as a free app in iTunes.