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Can Breast Cancer Cause Arm Pain

If Youre Getting Radiation Therapy To The Breast

Breast Cancer Rehabilitation- Shoulder Pain After Mastectomy

If you have radiation to the breast, it can affect your heart or lungs as well causing other side effects.

Short-term side effects

Radiation to the breast can cause:

  • Skin irritation, dryness, and color changes
  • Breast soreness
  • Breast swelling from fluid build-up

To avoid irritating the skin around the breast, women should try to go without wearing a bra whenever they can. If this isnt possible, wear a soft cotton bra without underwires.

If your shoulders feel stiff, ask your cancer care team about exercises to keep your shoulder moving freely.

Breast soreness, color changes, and fluid build-up will most likely go away a month or 2 after you finish radiation therapy. If fluid build-up continues to be a problem, ask your cancer care team what steps you can take. See Lymphedema for more information.

Long-term changes to the breast

Radiation therapy may cause long-term changes in the breast. Your skin may be slightly darker, and pores may be larger and more noticeable. The skin may be more or less sensitive and feel thicker and firmer than it was before treatment. Sometimes the size of your breast changes it may become larger because of fluid build-up or smaller because of scar tissue. These side effects may last long after treatment.

After about a year, you shouldnt have any new changes. If you do see changes in breast size, shape, appearance, or texture after this time, tell your cancer care team about them right away.

Less common side effects in nearby areas

The Breast Cancer Centers At Ctca

At each of our CTCA Breast Cancer Centers, located in our hospitals in Atlanta, Chicago and Phoenix, our cancer care experts are devoted to a single mission: treating breast cancer patients with compassion and precision.

Each patients care team is led by a medical oncologist and may also include a breast surgeon, radiation oncologist, radiologist, pathologist and a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. Our pathologists and oncologists are experienced and trained in tools designed to diagnose, stage and treat the many types of breast cancer, from early-stage ductal carcinoma in situ to complex diseases such as triple-negative breast cancer and IBC. Genetic counseling and genetic testing are also available for qualifying patients.

Our patient-centered care model is designed to help you keep strong during treatment. Your multidisciplinary care team may recommend various evidence-informed supportive care services, including:

What Are The Symptoms Of Breast Cancer Vs Cysts

Breast Cancer

Early breast cancer has no symptoms. It is usually not painful.

Most breast cancer is discovered before symptoms are present, either by finding an abnormality on mammography or feeling a breast lump. A lump in the armpit or above the collarbone that does not go away may be a sign of cancer. Other possible symptoms are breast discharge, nipple inversion, or changes in the skin overlying the breast.

  • Most breast lumps are not cancerous. All breast lumps, however, need to be evaluated by a doctor.
  • Breast discharge is a common problem. Discharge is most concerning if it is from only one breast or if it is bloody. In any case, all breast discharge should be evaluated.
  • Nipple inversion is a common variant of normal nipples, but nipple inversion that is a new development needs to be of concern.
  • Changes in the skin of the breast include redness, changes in texture, and puckering. These changes are usually caused by skin diseases but occasionally can be associated with breast cancer.

Breast Cysts

  • Noncyclic breast pain is typically unilateral with no relationship to your menstrual cycle.
  • This pain may be constant or on and off and irregular. It is described as a sharp, stabbing, burning pain that appears to be right below the area around your nipple.
  • If it is localized and persistent, it may be due to the presence of a fibroadenoma or cyst. But other more serious causes must be ruled out.
  • Tenderness and swelling
  • Breast engorgement
  • Fever and chills
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    What Causes Peripheral Neuropathy

    There are different ways that cancer and its treatments can cause peripheral neuropathy:

    • Some anti-cancer drugs can cause nerve damage. This is the most common cause of peripheral neuropathy in people with cancer.
    • Cancer can cause peripheral neuropathy in one area of the body if the tumour is growing close to a nerve and presses on it.
    • Surgery may damage nerves and cause symptoms in the affected area. For example, breast cancer surgery may cause numbness or tingling and pain in the arm.
    • Rarely, radiotherapy may damage nerves in the treated area. This can cause symptoms such as numbness and weakness. These may develop months or years after treatment.
    • In some types of cancer, the body may make substances that damage peripheral nerves. This is called paraneoplastic syndrome. It may happen in people with lung cancer, myeloma or lymphoma.

    The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy depend on which nerves are affected. Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are usually mild to start with and gradually get worse.

    Peripheral neuropathy usually affects the hands, feet and lower legs.

    Symptoms may include:

    It is important to tell your doctor if you notice any new symptoms that may be caused by treatment, or if your symptoms are getting worse. If you do have nerve damage, it is better if it is diagnosed as early as possible.

    You may be at a higher risk if you:

    Ache To Agony: A Shocking Breast Cancer Diagnosis

    What Is Axillary Web Syndrome?

    Like many people, Lisa Harvey was used to the occasional twinge in her back.

    But three years ago, she experienced pain which was so intense that, at times, it took her breath away.

    It came on gradually, starting as a nagging pain just below my right shoulder blade, but soon built up into a constant throbbing sensation as if someone had pressed a hot needle into my back, says the deputy registrar of marriages and deaths, from Cardiff, Wales.

    I would sit at my desk feeling as if I was about to cry.

    I thought I must have somehow pulled a muscle and I wanted to get as much heat into it as possible. Id go home and push a hot water bottle into my back until my skin was red raw.

    Occasionally, the excruciating spasms would radiate into her breast and armpit, even as far as her elbow.

    But I assumed it was all a knock-on effect of a pulled muscle in my back. I thought perhaps Id picked something up the wrong way.

    After several weeks of agony, the mother-of-two described the symptom to her GP and asked for some naproxen she had found this powerful anti-inflammatory effective when she suffered whiplash in a car accident a few years earlier.

    But this time the drug only made a slight difference. And it wasnt until three months after the symptom appeared that she discovered what was really wrong: she had breast cancer.

    These can include a swollen arm, breathlessness, weight loss or, as in Harveys case, back pain.


    Also Check: How Can I Tell If I Have Breast Cancer

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    How Breast Cancer Pain May Feel

    While many types of breast pain are not cancerous, pain in only one breast may be cause for calling your doctor. Benign breast pain is often on both sides.

    Breast cancer pain can be persistent and very specific, usually hurting in just one spot. It is important to remember that breast cancer can be present in your breast before it causes pain. If you have other symptoms of breast cancer, such as nipple retraction , sudden swelling of your breast, or sudden skin changes, consult your healthcare provider for a clinical breast exam.

    The Downside: Joint Pain

    While aromatase inhibitors are very effective, they have potential side effects. Studies have found that anywhere from 25% to 50% of women who take the drugs experience joint pain or muscle pain.

    Jointsymptoms can affect the fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees and ankles. Itsproblematic because, if you are using it for prevention, you dont want to messup their quality of life, Dr. LeGrand explains.

    Some womenstop taking the drug before the five years are up because of joint discomfort.

    Also Check: Breast Cancer Symptom Checker

    Who Does Breast Cancer Affect

    Breast cancer mainly affects older women.

    Most breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50. And the older you are, the higher your risk.

    Men can also get breast cancer, but this is rare. Most men who get breast cancer are over 60.

    Breast cancer is caused by a combination of our genes, environment and lifestyles. Find out more about breast cancer causes.

    Treating Chest Wall Pain

    What Can Cause Breast Pain?

    Treatment for chest wall pain will depend on whats causing it.

    If its found that your breast pain is caused by a pulled muscle in your chest, this is likely to improve over time and can be treated with pain relief.

    Chest wall pain can also affect the area under the arm and towards the front of the chest, and this may be due to:

    • costochondritis inflammation of parts of the ribs
    • Tietzes syndrome inflammation of the costal cartilages and swelling

    Your GP or specialist may be able to tell that the costal cartilages are painful if pressure is put on them. Sometimes this inflammation can feel similar to heart pain. You may feel tightness in the chest and a severe, sharp pain. The pain may also spread down the arm and can be worse when you move.

    You may find it helpful to rest and avoid sudden movements that increase the pain. Pain relief such as paracetamol or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen may help.

    Your specialist may suggest injecting the painful area with a local anaesthetic and steroid.

    Smoking can make the inflammation worse, so you may find that your pain lessens if you cut down or stop altogether.

    The NHS website has more information about costochondritis and Tietzes syndrome.

    Pain caused by other medical conditions, such as angina or gallstones, may be felt in the breast. Your GP or specialist will advise you on the most appropriate treatment.

    Back to top

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    Swelling In Or Around Your Breast Collarbone Or Armpit

    Swelling in these areas can occur for many reasons but may indicate cancer. Breast swelling can be caused by certain types of breast cancer. Swelling or lumps around your collarbone or armpits can be caused by breast cancer that has spread to lymph nodes in those areas. The swelling can occur even before you can feel a lump in your breast. If you have swelling, be sure to let your health care team know as soon as possible.

    Also Check: Lymph Node Positive Breast Cancer

    Nerve Damage And Dysesthesia

    The nerves that control our hands and fingers go down our arms and travel through the axilla. If these are damaged by surgery or radiation, the result is pain. This common nerve pain feels like sudden, intense, stabbing pain in your underarm, arm, or even hands. It lasts only moments, but is erratic and unpredictable. As the nerves begin to heal from surgery, there can be a resurgence of this pain. The medical term for this type of pain is called dysesthesia.

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    When To See A Doctor

    People should not panic or be fearful when they notice breast changes. Aging, changes in hormone levels, and other factors can lead to breast changes throughout a persons lifetime.

    However, people should be proactive about their health and visit a doctor to determine the cause of any breast symptoms.

    Each of the eight changes listed above can warrant a trip to the doctor, especially if these changes do not seem to relate to one of the following:

    • the menstrual cycle
    • injury
    • previous illness, such as a breast infection

    A doctor can evaluate the symptoms, examine the affected breast or breasts, and recommend further studies if necessary. They may suggest a mammogram, ultrasound, other imaging tests, or bloodwork to rule out infection or other potential causes.

    Palliative Care Or Pain Specialists

    Armpit Lumps: Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment

    Some health care providers are more experienced at treating pain than others.

    Palliative care and pain specialists treat pain from cancer or other causes. They can treat people with early breast cancer as well as those with metastatic breast cancer.

    Palliative care specialists help people maintain the best quality of life possible. They have special training in pain management and symptom management.

    Palliative care specialists can discuss the benefits versus the burdens of different treatments for your symptoms as well as for medications or other therapies to treat the cancer.

    Anesthesia pain experts are anesthesiologists with special training in pain management. They are experts in procedures to relieve pain.

    Sometimes a palliative care specialist or an anesthesia pain specialist is part of your treatment team. If not, be sure to ask your oncologist for a referral to a specialist if:

    • Your pain is not controlled
    • You have side effects from the pain medications
    • You would like to discuss more options to manage your pain

    Your oncologist can usually follow the specialists recommendations. If the treatment is effective, you wont need to see the specialist again.

    For a list of palliative care programs in your area, visit the website. You can also call the National Cancer Institutes Cancer Information Service toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER or the American Cancer Society toll-free at 1-800-ACS-2345 .

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    A Lump In Your Breast

    A lump or mass in the breast is the most common symptom of breast cancer. Lumps are often hard and painless, although some are painful. However, not all lumps are cancer. Benign breast conditions that can also cause lumps.

    Still, its important to have your doctor check out any new lump or mass right away. If it does turn out to be cancer, the sooner its diagnosed the better.

    Breast Reconstruction And Other Surgeries After A Lymphedema Diagnosis

    Its a good idea to speak with a lymphedema specialist if youre planning on having breast reconstruction surgery or any other type of surgical procedure after you have been diagnosed with lymphedema.

    Even if you plan on having surgery on the side opposite to where you are experiencing lymphedema symptoms, its normal to be concerned that the surgery could trigger lymphedema on that side as well.

    Your lymphedema specialist can help you prepare for surgery and advise on which questions to ask your surgeon before the procedure. Your specialist can also monitor you to see if the surgery triggers any lymphedema symptoms, and advise on whether it makes sense for you to have manual lymphatic drainage, bandage the affected area, or wear compression garments all in an effort to keep excess lymph and fluid from building up in the area again.

    Before the procedure, its important to let your surgeon know that you are receiving treatment for lymphedema. Its a good idea to ask the surgeon if there is a way to avoid or minimize any further damage to your lymphatic system.

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    Medication To Get Rid Of Burning Sensation In Breast:

  • You can try applying a topical NSAID or Non-steroidal anti inflammatory medication to the area in your breast where you feel the burning sensation.
  • If you are on birth control pills, then switch birth control methods or skip the pill-free week, which may help in providing you a lot of relief from burning sensation in breast.
  • In order to relieve burning sensation in breast because of premenstrual syndrome you can take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
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    Breast Cancer And Shoulder Blade Pain

    Breast Cancer Rehabilitation after mastectomy – reduced arm movement and pain

    Some women may feel back pain in the upper back between the shoulder blades before any other sign of breast cancer reveals itself. The discomfort is usually attributed to muscle pain, inflammation of the spine or stretching the tendon and ligaments in the back.

    Its important to know that tumors will sometimes develop deep within the breast tissue of the chest and felt in the spine or ribcage. There is also the possibility of metasis, a malignant spreading of the disease to the ribs or spine.

    For example, The National Breast Cancer Foundation reports about a patient who was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and suffered from a severe back pain.5

    The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association reported that metastatic bone disease secondary to breast cancer is a common cause of low back pain. The report stressed the need for further imaging in patients with a history of breast cancer and whose physical examination and plain film radiographs are inconclusive or suspicious.6

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    Postsurgery Treatments And Exercises To Try

    After surgery, its not uncommon to experience symptoms such as swelling, pain, and stiffness.

    If you do experience these symptoms, its best to first seek an evaluation from an orthopedic specialist or a physical therapist. They can teach you how to move and exercise safely.

    If you arent injured, you can usually proceed with starting an exercise program. You may not feel up to doing very much, but its important to move when you can.

    At this stage, even gentle range-of-motion exercises can help keep you from losing too much mobility and prevent you from developing lymphedema.

    Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer

    More women die of breast cancer than any other cancer, and men, although in a distinct minority with barely one percent of the cases, are not immune. According to 2019 statistics released by, a doctor-approved patient website, 42,260 people will die of breast cancer by the end of the year. This ubiquitous disease is on the rise among women, despite advances in medicine and treatment measures. Among the cancers among women, breast cancer trails only skin cancer as the most diagnosed. There will be 268,250 women in this country diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, with almost 63,000 with in situ breast cancer.

    As is the case with most cancers, the sooner it is detected the better the chances of vanquishing it. Breast cancer should not be allowed to linger for long, because time is on its side as it spreads through the lymph nodes from an ignominious start as a small tumor in the breast tissue.

    The hard fact is that it cant be treated if it isnt diagnosed in the first place, and we bring you seven detectable signs of breast cancer that will give you a head start.

    Seven Signs of Breast Cancer

  • Breast or Chest Pain
  • That brings us to the second sign.

  • Lump or Lumps in the Breast
  • Itchy, Inflamed and Tender breasts
  • Changing Shape or Appearance of Breast
  • Nipples Less Sensitive or More Inflamed
  • Inflammation, Color Changes and Hotness
  • Stiffness, Pain in Upper Back, Neck, and Shoulder
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