Distorted body schema after mastectomy with immediate breast reconstruction: a 4-month follow up study

Asall Kim, Eun Joo Yang, Myungki Ji, Jaewon Beom, Chunghwi Yi

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Background: After breast cancer, some patients report residual pain-related upper limb disability without physical impairment. Although pain and altered proprioception are known to affect the working body schema (WBS), there is little available evidence investigating the WBS of breast cancer survivors (BrCS). WBS—body representations in the brain—affect the “neuromatrix” that modulates pain sensitivity and the threshold for threatening stimuli. The aim of this study was to investigate whether WBS was disrupted after mastectomy with immediate breast reconstruction (IBR) for breast cancer and whether pain and proprioceptive changes affected WBS. Methods: Thirty-five BrCS participated in the 4-month follow-up study. They were observed at 1 and 4 months postoperatively. The main outcome measures were the left right judgement test (LRJT) results, absolute angle error, pectoralis minor length index (PMI), pain, and Quick-Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (Q-DASH) score. They were measured at each observation, and parametric tests were performed to identify the nature of WBS. Results: Both the reaction time and accuracy of the hand LRJT were poorer than those of the foot and back LRJT (p < 0.001). The hand LRJT reaction time and accuracy were unchanged over the total follow-up period (p = 0.77 and p = 0.47, respectively). There was a weak correlation between the LRJT reaction time and PMI (r = −0.26, p = 0.07), pain severity (r = 0.37, p = 0.02), and Q-DASH score (r = 0.37, p = 0.02). There was also a weak correlation between LRJT accuracy and Q-DASH score (r = −0.31, p = 0.04). The LRJT accuracy of BrCS who underwent surgery on their dominant side was higher than that of BrCS who underwent surgery on their non-dominant side (p = 0.002). Regression analysis found a weak but significant relationship between the early hand LRJT results and late pain severity (adjusted R2 = 0.179, p = 0.007). A similar relationship was found between early hand LRJT results and Q-DASH score (adjusted R2 = 0.099, p = 0.039). Conclusion: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study providing the nature of WBS after mastectomy with IBR. In this population, it is necessary to postoperatively preserve WBS integrity for pain and upper limb disability.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14157
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Editage for English language editing.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright 2022 Kim et al.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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