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Chest Pain

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During breast cancer treatment, you may have different kinds of pain in your chest.

  • After surgery, you may feel a mixture of pain and numbness in your chest in the area where surgery was done. This is because nerves were unavoidably bruised, stretched, or cut during surgery. As the nerves grow back, you may feel strange, crawling sensations in your chest. Right after surgery, you may feel brief shooting pains in your chest. This is also because the nerves are irritated.
  • During and after radiation therapy, you also may feel brief shooting pains in your chest. Again, this is because the nerves are swollen and irritated.
  • If you have an implant in place and the tissues around it are stretched, you may feel more severe chest pain.
  • Some hormonal therapies may also cause chest pain:

Managing chest pain

If you have chest pain after surgery or during or after radiation therapy, talk to your doctor. A number of medicines, including acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and opiates, can be used to ease pain.

Some complementary and holistic medicine techniques have been shown to ease pain, including:

Other tips for managing chest pain:

  • Hot or cold packs, or a combination of the two, can soothe aches. Heat can help reduce muscle spasms and cold can help reduce inflammation.
  • Eat a healthy diet that includes enough protein, calcium, and vitamin D to help your body recover and keep your immune system strong.
  • The American Cancer Society's Reach to Recovery program can send a volunteer with a ball and special pillows to your home to show you exercises you can do after surgery that can help ease pain.

Join the Conversation

Post-Mastectomy Pain Syndrome: What It Is and How It's Treated


Michael Stubblefield, M.D., medical director of cancer rehabilitation at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in New Jersey and the national medical director for Select Medical’s ReVital Cancer Rehabilitation program, explains post-mastectomy pain syndrome and the different ways it affects people, how surgeries and radiation can cause it, treatments for the syndrome, and more.

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