It is certainly well within the level of expectation to have some pain and/or discomfort after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. But when pain continues for more than a few months post surgery and begins to impact quality of life, this is very likely Post-Mastectomy Pain Syndrome (PMPS).
Studies have shown that between 20 and 30 percent of women who have breast surgery develop PMPS.
What is Post-Mastectomy Pain Syndrome?
Post-mastectomy pain syndrome (PMPS) is chronic nerve (neuropathic) pain after lumpectomy or mastectomy…The classic signs of PMPS are chest wall pain and tingling down the arm. Pain can also be felt in the shoulder, scar, arm, or armpit. Other common complaints include numbness, shooting or pricking pain, or unbearable itching
The exact cause of PMPS is unknown. A strong theory however is that during surgery damage is caused to the intercostobrachial nerve. This nerve extends from the outer edge of the breast and runs along the underside of the arm.
Treatments for Post-Mastectomy Pain Syndrome
There are treatments to help relieve PMPS. This often starts with the use of ibupofen and/or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
The application of topical anesthetics can be effective for treatment in many cases.
Steroid injections or local anesthetic can be helpful for those who suffer from pain around the scar area.
As well as medical interventions, Integrative therapies can also be of help for those suffering with PMPS. These include massage therapy, reflexology and acupuncture.
Why Seek Help?
In light of the toll that cancer therapies can have on the body, it may seem somewhat trivial to question your doctor about aches and pains. But it is not.
Pain not only has a physical impact, it can also have a mental one.
Research has demonstrated that the pain women experience suffering from PMPS has been linked to fear of recurrence. This can be a paralyzing feeling.
Depression, as well, is strongly associated with pain.
Post-Mastectomy Pain Syndrome is real.
Do not dismiss symptoms or concerns that you are experiencing. Consult your doctor and get relief.
We must be advocates of our own health.