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New study investigates use of soy-rich diet for preventing chronic pain after breast cancer surgery

The potential health benefits associated with a soy-rich diet have been a source of interest and debate for many years. Several studies have hinted at its great potential for relieving post-traumatic and osteopathic pain. Now, a breakthrough study, focusing on the benefits of soy in the prevention of chronic pain after breast cancer surgery, has been launched by researchers at the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and McGill University.

“If we can demonstrate that a soy-rich pre-surgery diet, is both safe and effective for the prevention of chronic post-surgical pain, the clinical implications will be significant and could help many women around the world,” explains Dr. Yoram Shir, principal investigator of the study and Director of the MUHC Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit, who is also a Professor of Anesthesia and Edwards Chair in Clinical Pain at McGill University.

Chronic pain after breast cancer surgery is the most common cause for long-term morbidity in women diagnosed with breast cancer, with an incidence that can be higher than 50%. This pain can be resistant to treatment and last for years, burdening women with its physical, emotional and social consequences. This new National Institutes of Health-funded study will determine if a diet enriched with soy protein, consumed by women for two weeks prior to surgery, could prevent the development of chronic pain. "If shown to be efficacious, this would be a natural and safe preventive treatment that is easily incorporated into the everyday diet,” says Dr. Shir. Our daily diet can also be enriched with soy protein through shelf products like tofu and soy milk.

There is currently no proven effective method for the prevention of chronic postoperative pain," explains Dr. Shir. “Measures such as pain-relieving medications, commonly used to relieve acute pain after surgery, are largely ineffective in preventing acute post-surgical pain from becoming chronic.” Over 22,000 new cases of breast cancer in women are diagnosed each year in Canada and 6,000 in Quebec; most will undergo surgery as part of their comprehensive cancer therapy.

Dr. Shir will be attending the 13th World Congress on Pain in Montreal from August 20 to September 2, 2010.

About the Study
For more information on this study, or to participate please contact the office of Dr. Yoram Shir (principal investigator) at 514- 934-8222 or by email:

About the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) One of the world’s foremost academic health centres, the MUHC offers exceptional and integrated patient-centric care, research and teaching. Highly committed to the continuum of care in its community and affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University, The Montreal Children's Hospital, the Montreal General Hospital, the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Montreal Neurological Hospital, the Montreal Chest Institute and the Lachine Hospital of the MUHC value multidisciplinary service throughout the lifespan, innovative technologies and practices, strategic partnerships and leadership in knowledge transfer. The MUHC is currently carrying out a $2.25-billion Redevelopment Project on three campuses—the Mountain, the Glen and Lachine—designed to provide healthcare professionals with an effective environment in which to ensure patients and their families benefit from The Best Care for Life. The campuses are also anchored in best sustainable-development practices, including LEED® and BOMA BESt guidelines.

The Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit is a bilingual, hospital-based, interdisciplinary facility serving the MUHC, the greater Montreal community, surrounding areas and other regions of Quebec and eastern Ontario. The Unit attends to patients suffering cancerous and non-cancerous pain of any origin. Its objectives to relieve pain, to restore function and improve quality of life, are met through the combined efforts of a team of pain specialists and researchers from diverse health-care disciplines.

The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) is a world-renowned biomedical and health-care hospital research centre. Research is organized by eleven research axes (or programs). Located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the Institute is the research arm of the McGill University Health Centre affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. The Institute supports over 600 researchers, over 1,800 graduate students and post-docs and fellows devoted to a broad spectrum of fundamental and clinical research. Over 1000 clinical research studies are conducted within our hospitals each year. The Research Institute of the MUHC is supported in part by the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec (FRSQ).

About McGill University
McGill University, founded in Montreal, Que., in 1821, is Canada’s leading post-secondary institution. It has two campuses, 11 faculties, 10 professional schools, 300 programs of study and more than 35,000 students. McGill attracts students from more than 150 countries around the world. Almost half of McGill students claim a first language other than English – including 6,200 francophones – with more than 6,800 international students making up almost 20 per cent of the student body.

Media contact:

Julie Robert
Communications Coordinator (Research)
Public Affairs and Strategic Planning, MUHC
Phone: 514 934-1934 ext. 71381

Julie Robert | MUHC
Further information:

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