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Long term pain after lung surgery

Some people do unfortunately have pain for some months or even years after surgery for lung cancer or surgery for pleural mesothelioma. The pain is from damaged nerves in the area, caused during the operation. It often happens after a type of operation to open the chest through the rib cage (a thoracotomy). But can happen after any type of lung surgery. 

The pain often runs along the operation scar. For most people it will gradually reduce over a couple of years as the nerves repair themselves.  But for some people it may continue for longer.

Nerve pain can be difficult to get under control. It is important to let your specialist nurse or surgeon know that you are in pain. They can refer you to a pain clinic where you can get specialist help. Commonly used painkillers don't always help nerve pain. But there are other medicines you can try. Some types of anti epileptic drugs and anti depressants work very well at controlling this type of pain and your doctor can prescribe these.

Other ways of controlling pain can also work well, such as nerve blocks. You can read about this on our page about ways of controlling pain. There is a lot of support available to help people who have chronic pain. You can read about this on our page about support when you are in pain.

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Updated: 26 March 2014