How long does pain last after breast cancer?


Question from Barb: How long does breast cancer after-pain last? I was diagnosed in 2002, at age 36, and feel like an old lady with pain in my arms, shoulder, and back.
Answers - Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. It's so distressing to have a constant reminder of what you've been through!
Neal Slatkin Sometimes, the diagnosis of a severe illness accompanied by all of the sometimes harsh treatments that are directed to treat that illness can cause people to be inactive. You may previously have engaged in exercise or athletic activities that you've given up. A lot of types of pain you're describing—arms, shoulder and back—often represent muscle pain or myofascial pain, and that type of pain is best approached through a slowly progressive exercise program involving exercising, stretching, and muscle toning.

In addition, certain medications such as the tricyclic antidepressants, can be useful. Finally, some patients may benefit from trigger point injections when a small number of trigger points can be identified. Occasionally, the use of a transcutaneous nerve stimulator applied over the skin can also be useful. But in my own experience I've found that exercise is the absolute first modality of treatment to be utilized.
Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. It sounds like you're quite hopeful for this patient that she can have improvement in her symptoms.
Neal Slatkin Yes. In fact, it's interesting the previous questioner asked about the so-called endogenous pain relief system, namely the production of pain-relieving substances within our own bodies. Exercise has long been held as a way of mobilizing that pain relief system.

On Wednesday, January 21, 2004, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Pain Management: Getting the Relief YOU Need. Neal Slatkin, M.D., Michelle Rhiner, N.P. and moderator Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. answered your questions about the best ways to deal with the physical pain and discomforts associated with breast cancer and breast cancer treatment.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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