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Pain Research and Treatment
Volume 2012, Article ID 153060, 8 pages
Research Article

Pain Narratives in Breast Cancer Survivors

1INSERM, UMR912 (SESSTIM), 13006 Marseille, France
2Aix Marseille Université, UMR_S912, IRD, 13006 Marseille, France
3ORS PACA, Observatoire Régional de la Santé Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, 13006 Marseille, France

Received 17 June 2012; Accepted 30 July 2012

Academic Editor: Alok Madan

Copyright © 2012 Patrick Peretti-Watel et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In-depth interviews were conducted with French breast cancer survivors 24 month after cancer diagnosis ( women). We documented their experience of chronic pain, compared their pain narratives with their answers to the WHOQOL-BREF questionnaire, and studied both the meaning they gave to their pain and how they dealt with it in their daily lives. Half of participants reported are suffering from iatrogenic chronic pain. Most of the time, this pain was not captured by the WHOQOL questionnaire and was not medically treated. Patients “normalized” their pain in various ways: they considered it either as a necessary step on the road to recovery, as the proof of treatment efficacy, or as a permanent condition one must learn to live with. They learned to deal with pain by taking precautions, giving up certain activities, and changing the way they performed others. Participants were also prone to compare themselves with other patients suffering worse pain. Breast cancer survivors should be better informed about chronic pain and how to alleviate it. Physicians should contribute to fighting pain-related beliefs which lead patients to conceal their pain. Techniques used by patients to cope with chronic pain in their daily lives should also be promoted.