Researchers find racial/ethnic differences in breast pain among breast cancer survivors

September 13, 2021

A new study on breast pain in Hawaiʻi’s breast cancer patients was recently published in the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology Research and Practice. The study, which used a survey assessment, found that breast pain is a significant problem in Hawaiʻi’s breast cancer community and presents differently in the state’s various racial/ethnic groups.

The study was led by University of Hawaiʻi’s Cancer Center Associate Professor Jami Fukui, MD, with co-investigators, including UH Cancer Center researchers Erin Bantum, PhD, and Ian Pagano, PhD, former graduate assistant Shannon Lim, DNP, surgical resident Ashley Davidson Marumoto, MD, and UH Cancer Center 2019 undergraduate summer intern Madison Meister.

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women in Hawaiʻi, and the second most frequently diagnosed cancer among women in the nation. Approximately 148 women die from the disease each year in the state, and anywhere from 25 to 65 percent of women have reported experiencing breast pain following breast cancer treatment. Breast cancer studies seek to improve early detection and treatment strategies for the disease, or like Fukui’s, may find ways to positively impact quality of life among all breast cancer survivors.

Fukui and collaborators found a number of racial/ethnic differences in respondents’ experiences with breast pain. Chinese and Japanese participants reported significantly less pain compared to White participants. Investigators also found differences in breast pain according to age, endocrine therapy use, and survey location. No differences based on chemotherapy, radiation, or breast surgery were found.

“I began working on this project in 2019 as a research intern on Dr. Fukui’s team at the UH Cancer Center. The study aims to elucidate differences in breast pain in breast cancer patients, with hopes of increasing diversity and representation in clinical research while providing the highest standard of care to our patients,” said study collaborator and former intern, Madison Meister. “There is a lack of information and research on minority groups, which make up much of the UH Cancer Center’s patient population. Researchers at the Cancer Center have a duty to serve our community by ensuring they are represented in clinical studies.”

The publication was a collaborative effort between UH Cancer Center faculty members, community partners, and students. Findings from this study will help researchers to develop culturally-appropriate pain management strategies to treat this common symptom in breast cancer survivors.