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Persistent (Chronic) Pain

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Persistent or chronic pain is pain that lasts for long periods of time. This kind of pain ranges from mild to moderate to severe: It can be an uncomfortable achiness that is always there in the background, or a much more intense feeling of physical distress or suffering that makes it impossible to focus on anything else. Everyone feels pain differently, and people with breast cancer can have a wide range of experiences with pain.

Because persistent pain lasts day after day, it tends to have a greater impact on quality of life than acute pain. If it’s not controlled well with medication, persistent pain can keep people from doing everything they need and want to do, from work-related tasks and home responsibilities to exercise and other activities. Some people start to feel irritable and isolated, which can cause relationships with family and friends to suffer.

Persistent pain is usually treated with long-acting medications (also called sustained release medications) that are released into the body slowly and control pain for long periods of time. You take them around-the-clock on a regular schedule, whether or not you’re feeling any pain at the time. Or you may wear a patch that releases the medication into the body through the skin for several days at a time. The goal is to maintain a constant level of pain relief throughout the day and night. The best strategy is to stay on top of the pain and control it, rather than trying to play "catch up" after you already start to feel pain. If you wait it out and the pain becomes severe, it will be more difficult to control.

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