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Research project: Systematic review of the literature for non-pharmacological interventions for arthralgia in non cancer conditions - Dormant - Dormant

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Following breast cancer treatment many women experience symptoms similar to arthritis in their joints, but little is known about to alleviate this problem. This review is to explore the effectiveness of non-pharmacological interventions used in people with arthritis in order to try and identify suitable methods to use in cancer related joint pain.

Recent research undertaken within the CECo collaborative has shown that women with breast cancer experience more pain in their hands and feet than women of a similar age who have not been treated for breast cancer (Fenlon et al 2008). Although the causes of this pain are not clear it appears that there may be associations between chemotherapy treatments and treatments which are designed to reduce oestrogen levels in the blood stream, such as the aromatase inhibitors. Women who have had breast cancer often feel that they need to persevere with their treatment although it is causing side effects as they are more concerned about the risk of recurrence. Nevertheless, there are a substantial number who still feel the need to discontinue or change treatment (Breast Cancer Action report), thus losing the option of treatment which may prevent recurrence and prolong their lives. For those who continue to experience pain, the experience of breast cancer can cause women to revaluate their lives and many women become increasingly reluctant to take medications, even to relieve painful side effects (Harris et al? ). Many women after breast cancer take up the use of non-pharmacological approaches, such as herbal and natural remedies (Harris et al?) in preference to pharmacological methods of dealing with their pain.

The changes that are taking place in women with painful hands and feet after breast cancer have not been fully characterised, however, there are indications that there are changes within the joints that are similar to arthritic processes (Crew et al). It would be useful to explore the evidence around non-pharmacological approaches to pain control in people with arthritic conditions to begin to consider which of these approaches might be suitable for women with breast cancer. These could then be built into a programme to test appropriate interventions for pain control in women following breast cancer.

Project team

Dr Deborah Fenlon, Senior Research Fellow
Dr Claire Foster, Head of Macmillan Survivorship Research Group
Professor Julia Addington-Hall, Chair in End of Life Care
Dr Jo Adams, Senior Lecturer
Dr Peter Simmonds, Consultant Oncologist
Dr Jo Clough, patient adviser
Miss Caroline Spicka, Occupational Therapist

Project funder


Associated research themes

Cancer survivorship
Breast cancer
Non-pharmacological interventions

Related research groups

Complex Healthcare Processes
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