Women who have suffered the trauma of breast cancer often experience breast tenderness or pain. The causes of this are multi-factorial:-
The tumour itself and surgery would have disrupted the normal architecture of the breast disturbing the flow of fluid around it. Not only will this cause a throbbing aching discomfort in itself it makes the breast heavier and hotter straining the adjacent muscles.
Surgery cuts the minor nerves in the breast and under the arm, when these try the repair themselves the usual numbness gives way to a burning over sensitive pain (hyperaesthesia) which can last for several years.
On top of all this, the disrupted nerves not infrequently send sharp lightening jabbing pains into the breast these neuralgic pains may only last a few seconds but they are enough to make your toes curl!
radiotherapy and for about 6 weeks after, the skin can become red and itchy
and in the long term it can contribute to the underlying thickening and
fibrosis of the tissues which also makes the skin and underlying tissues
less flexible and stiff. In some cases this can restrict movement around the
chest wall and shoulder.
How can you help:
Its important to gently break up the scar (fibrous) tissues which have accumulated in the breast tissue itself, between the breast tissue the skin and the underlying muscle and ribs. At first moving the arm or upper chest is often associated with an aggravation of the pain because the tissues do glide smoothly across each other sometimes even a tearing sensation is felt.
Exercise is an excellent best way to break down these scar tissues particularly those which affect the shoulder and armpit. Follow the instructions in the exercise and the breast section of the appendix as much as possible.
gentle massage has also produced some excellent results some of the worse
effected women I have encountered. It is particularly good on the breast itself
and the surrounding skin which may have stuck down onto the ribs. Put some extra
virgin olive oil on the fingers and gently try to roll the skin over the ribs
be as firm as possible but do not cause any pain or bruising as this will be
counter productive. At first you will not notice an improvement but with daily
persistence the mobility will improve along with the pain. As an added bonus,
let you partner help you.
Further general information Your doctors and specialist nurses are in an ideal position to give you relevant information on your disease and treatment as they know your individual circumstances. Cancerbackup has a help line (0808 800 1234) and a prize winning video available in English, Italian, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati & Hindi explaining Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy. Cancernet.co.uk has over 500 pages describing cancer, its management, practical tips and tool which patients, their carers and their doctors have found helpful during the cancer journey.