Breast Cancer Recurrence Risk Lowered by Pain Medication

Women who receive one common pain drug during mastectomy are less likely to develop recurrent breast cancer in the years following surgery, researchers suggest.

The study adds to a growing body of intriguing but preliminary evidence — outlined in an accompanying research review and editorial — that anesthetic and analgesic drug choices may, through their effects on the immune system, have an impact on the outcomes of cancer surgery.

Patrice Forget, MD and colleagues of Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium assessed possible links between pain medications and recurrent cancer risk in 327 women undergoing mastectomy for breast cancer. Recurrence rates at 1 to 4 years after surgery were compared for patients who received different drugs for pain during their surgery.

Women receiving ketorolac — a powerful prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug related to aspirin and ibuprofen — seemed to be at lower risk of recurrent breast cancer. The recurrence rate was 6% for women who received ketorolac during their mastectomy versus 17% for those who did not receive ketorolac.

The lower risk of recurrent cancer was still significant after adjustment for other factors, including the patient’s age and the stage of the cancer. None of the other pain medications used during surgery affected the recurrence rate.

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