Are There Alternative Ways To Treat Breast Cancer Pain
An accurate diagnosis of the cause of pain can be challenging, and effective pain management can be complex. Pain management specialists employ an interdisciplinary approach to ease suffering and improve quality of life of those living with pain.
In addition to medications, a specialist might recommend:
- Physical therapy
‘you’re Dying Of Breast Cancer And There’s No Cure’
There’s no oncologist in my county, so I went to Columbus for a second opinion from doctors at Ohio State University. While I was there, I told them about my back pain. That prompted them to do a CT scan, which showed the cancer had possibly gone to my spine. I needed another biopsy to confirm this, and within a week I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. I went from hearing, Youre too young to have breast cancer to Youre dying of breast cancer and theres no cure.
When I learned that the terrible pain in my back was due to metastatic cancer in my spine , I first wanted to hug my oncologist. Not because I was excited to have cancer, but because someone finally gave me an answer that explained why my back had hurt so much, confirming that it wasn’t all in my head.
But then, as this information sank in, finding out that it was cancer felt like I was getting punched in the stomach. All I could think was, How long has this been going on? I thought back to the rheumatologist I had seen just a couple of weeks before, who told me I was “fine” and to only come back if the pain got worse.
I then discovered something chilling. A note had been left in my medical records by one of the doctors I had seen for the back pain. It mentioned that “suspicious lesions” were found on my spine and hip bone after a scan I had a year earlier. No one ever followed up or told me about this.
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Visible Changes In The Nipple Or Skin
After puberty, your nipples remain fairly consistent in shape, size and color. Generally, there shouldnt be any sudden changes with your nipples or skin. But if there are any visible changes, such as a red, itchy or scaly rash inversion or sucking-in of the nipple dimpling, puckering or other changes in the skin on or around the nipple, you should see your doctor.
As breast cancer progresses, it grows and pushes other things out of the way, Dr. Duncan says. This can cause changes in the breast, skin and nipple as the breasts internal structure changes.
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Other Forms Of Tendonitis In The Arm
In addition to rotator cuff tendonitis discussed above, additional forms of arm tendonitis can arise as side effects of breast cancer treatment. These include tendonitis of the tendons of the elbow , thumb and biceps muscle , and they are typically caused by abnormal use or function of the shoulder.
Bone Thinning Bone And Joint Pain
A group of estrogen-blocking breast cancer drugs called aromatase inhibitors may turn your bones more brittle. That may cause bone and joint pain.
Certain types of chemotherapy can also cause bone thinning. If you arenât already in menopause, it may start prematurely.
Breast cancer itself can cause pain if it spreads to your bones. A specialized radiation treatment called radiotherapy can sometimes help. Ask your doctor about other treatment options like pain medications.
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Is The Back The First Place For It To Spread
The most for breast cancer to spread to are:
- the lungs
- the bones
- the brain
As cancer cells rapidly grow out of control, they move into healthy tissues to form new tumors. This spread usually starts with the tissue nearest to where the cancer initially began. When this happens, people may start to experience symptoms in the new area.
When breast cancer spreads to the bones, it can affect:
- the ribs
These symptoms occur when the bones start releasing calcium into the bloodstream. The bones may also fracture more easily.
Other signs that cancer is spreading include:
- headaches, dizziness, and possibly seizures if it involves the brain
- shortness of breath, which may indicate that it has spread to the lungs
- jaundice and abdominal swelling, when cancer spreads to the liver
A person can often treat back pain at home, but if it persists or gets worse, they should see their doctor.
Home care for back pain includes taking anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen.
However, a person should speak to their doctor before taking any medications, as these may interact with existing treatment.
Other treatments for advanced breast cancer include:
- hormonal therapies
- targeted therapy
These methods all aim to reduce the size of tumors or prevent them growing, help with symptoms, and extend someoneâs life.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program At Ctca
Thats why we developed the CTCA Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program, where our team of breast cancer experts work quickly to properly diagnose and stage each patients disease so she can make more informed decisions about her treatment options. Our breast cancer experts collaborate daily, allowing them to reach a diagnosis more efficiently and provide an individualized care plan designed to allow you to start treatment as soon as possible. The team also offers opportunities to enroll qualified patients in carefully selected clinical trials in areas such as immunotherapy and genomically targeted chemotherapy.
If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of IBC and want to schedule an appointment for diagnostic testing, or chat online with a member of our team.
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How Is Metastasized Breast Cancer Diagnosed
When back pain is the first noticeable symptom of breast cancer, diagnosis is usually a process of elimination to rule out other possible sources of spine-related pain such as disc herniation, muscle strain, and sciatica. If breast cancer is confirmed, diagnosing where it has spread to typically involves:
- Blood tests to confirm if the cancer is in bone tissues in the spine
- Bone scans to identify which part of the spine is affected
- MRI and CT scans to determine if soft tissues around the backbone are affected
The Breast Cancer Centers At Ctca
At the Breast Cancer Centers at each of our CTCA® hospitals, located across the nation, our cancer experts are devoted to a single missiontreating breast cancer patients with compassion and precision. Each patients care team is led by a medical oncologist and coordinated by a registered oncology nurse, who helps track the various appointments, follow up on tests and answer questions that come up along the way. Your care team also may include a breast surgeon, radiation oncologist, radiologist, pathologist and a plastic and reconstructive surgeon with advanced training in helping patients restore function and appearance. Fertility preservation and genetic testing are also available for qualifying patients who need them.
Our pathologists and oncologists are experienced and trained in tools designed to diagnose, stage and treat different types of breast cancer, from early-stage ductal carcinoma in situ to complex diseases such as triple-negative and inflammatory breast cancer. As part of our patient-centered care model, which is designed to help you keep strong during treatment, your multidisciplinary care team may recommend various evidence-informed supportive therapies, such as naturopathic support, psychosocial support, nutritional support, physical and occupational therapy and pain management. The entire team works together with a whole-person focus, which is at the heart of our centers dedication to personalized and comprehensive care.
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Symptoms Of Secondary Breast Cancer
Secondary breast cancer means that a cancer that began in the breast has spread to another part of the body. Secondary cancer can also be called advanced or metastatic cancer.
It might not mean that you have secondary breast cancer if you have the symptoms described below. They can be caused by other conditions.
What Causes Breast Pain
There are a number of harmless causes for breast pain and tenderness that may primarily be related to changes in hormone levels. These can include:
- Puberty in girls and sometimes for boys, too
- Menstruation and premenstrual syndrome
- Pregnancy more often during the first trimester
- Days following childbirth as milk comes in Breastfeeding Mastitis, which is caused by a milk duct that is not properly draining and becomes infected, should be treated. It has no correlation with cancer, but it can become a serious infection if left untreated.
- A benign cyst
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Does Breast Pain Increase The Risk Of Breast Cancer
Though its uncommon, there are some painful breast conditions which may raise your risk. Both radial scars and multiple or complex fibroadenomas increase your risk of breast cancer Many breast conditions which cause pain confer only a minimally increased risk of breast cancer, such as ductal ectasia, fat necrosis, a breast abscess, simple fibroadenomas, and others.
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Cancer Beyond The Breast Area
A locally advanced recurrence means that the breast cancer has spread beyond the breast and the lymph nodes under the arm . This includes areas near to or around the breast but has not spread to other parts of the body.
A locally advanced cancer might come back in one or more of the following:
- the chest wall
- lymph nodes under the breastbone or between the ribs
- the nodes above the collarbone
- lymph nodes around the neck
Symptoms can include, changes in the breast, and swelling in the lymph nodes above and below the collarbone, the neck, and around the breast bone.
The tests you might have are usually the same as for checking for a local recurrence.
Do speak to your nurse or doctor if you notice any of these changes.
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Symptoms Elsewhere In The Body
Sometimes breast cancer cells can spread from the breast to other parts of the body. This is known as secondary breast cancer.
Some symptoms to be aware of include:
- unexpected weight loss and a loss of appetite
- severe or ongoing headaches
Find out more about the symptoms of secondary breast cancer.
Changes In Breast Shape Size Or Appearance
Remember that not all the breast tumors cause a hard lump close enough to the surface to be noticeable. Instead, in some women, the shape and appearance of the breasts may change. Unexplained swelling or shrinkage of the breast only on one side, asymmetry of the breast, a sudden change in shape of the breast are some of the symptoms you should not ignore. They are the possible signs of breast cancer.
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When To See A Healthcare Provider
Most back pain resolves over a few weeks with conservative treatment. If you have unexplained back pain or pain that persists for longer than six weeks, it is best to seek the advice of a healthcare provider.
If you have back pain along with weakness, difficulty walking, pain when awakening in the morning, or loss of bowel or bladder control you should be examined immediately, as these symptoms can indicate a more serious problem.
If your back pain persists after conservative treatment, let your healthcare provider know. They may refer you to a specialist for further evaluation. Injections to help with the pain can help, or surgery could be necessary. Back pain that is accompanied by signs of cancer should be further evaluated.
How Can Back Pain Be A Sign Of Breast Cancer
Although rare, experiencing pain and discomfort in the back can be a sign of breast cancer.
Pain that comes from the back and feels as though it is coming from deep within the bones can be a signal of the disease.
In these cases, it is usually because the cancer has spread from the breast and into the bones and shows that the condition is becoming advanced.
However, back pain alone is not always a symptom of breast cancer, and can be just down to soreness or aches in the muscles.
But if the pain is unusual and does not go away, you should see your doctor.
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Diagnosing Chest Wall Pain
See your GP if your breast pain is new and carries on.
Your GP will examine your breasts and take a history of the type of pain you have and how often it occurs. To check how long the pain lasts for, how severe the pain is or if the pain may be linked to your menstrual cycle, your GP may ask you to fill in a simple pain chart.
If your GP thinks you may have chest wall pain, they may ask you to lean forward during the examination. This is to help them assess if the pain is inside your breast or in the chest wall.
Your GP may refer you to a breast clinic where youll be seen by specialist doctors or nurses for a more detailed assessment.
Symptoms And Diagnosis Of Metastatic Breast Cancer
The most common parts of the body where breast cancer tends to spread are the bones, lungs, brain, and liver. But metastatic breast cancer can affect other parts of the body, as well.
Metastatic breast cancer symptoms can be very different depending on the cancers location, but may include:
back, bone, or joint pain that does not go away
difficulty urinating , which can be a sign that the cancer is pinching nerves in your back
numbness or weakness anywhere in your body
shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
abdominal bloating, pain, or tenderness
constant nausea, vomiting, or weight loss
biopsy of any suspicious area
a tap, removal of fluid from the area with symptoms to check for cancer cells a pleural tap removes fluid between the lung and chest wall a spinal tap removes fluid from around the spinal cord and a tap of fluid in the abdomen removes fluid in the abdominal cavity
These tests may also be used if you have no history of breast cancer and your doctor is having trouble determining the cause of your symptoms.
A biopsy may be done to determine these factors that can influence your treatment, which will be listed in your pathology report. Learn more about Understanding Your Pathology Report.
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You’re Getting Your Period
Two-thirds of breast pain is caused by the predictable surges of estrogen and progesterone around your monthly period.
Hormonal breast pain can happen to any woman that is menstruating, Dr. Swain says. It doesnt matter if theyre 14 or 44, as long as theyre still menstruating they have the risk of having cyclic breast pain.
Youll usually feel period-related boob pain in both breasts at once and all over your breasts. Most people describe the pain as achy rather than sharp.
For some women, its enough just to know that the pain will go away, usually in a week to 10 days. Other women seek relief from over-the-counter pain medications. There is one FDA-approved prescription drug for breast pain, called danazol, but it can have serious side effects.
Tweaking your diet may limit menstrual breast pain as well: Eating more flaxseed might help, as can sticking to a low-fat diet thats rich in complex carbs, says Dr. Swain.
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Changes In Nipple Appearance Or Sensitivity
One of the most common locations for a breast cancer tumor is just beneath the nipple, and it may cause a change in the appearance and feel of the nipple itself. Some women may also experience a decrease in nipple sensitivity.
Nipple discharge that starts suddenly should also be taken on a serious note, as it a warning sign of breast cancer. Nipple discharge can also be caused by an infection or any other health condition that requires immediate treatment. Therefore, if you have these changes, go and meet the doctor immediately.
Nipple change is a direct give away for men with breast cancer
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How Long Does Breast Pain Last
Before menopause, youll likely experience cyclic breast pain during every menstrual cycle. Though breast pain is a relatively constant issue, the severity of the pain depends on how you decide to treat it through specific pain-relieving medications and certain lifestyle changes. Noncyclic breast pain can also be treated and managed with these different methods. Fortunately, its relatively easy to obtain these medications or make beneficial lifestyle changes, making this condition something that shouldnt cause you much trouble at all.
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Whats The Outlook For People With Back Pain And Cancer
Less than 10 percent of spinal tumors actually start in the spine, according to the Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Even if a spinal tumor is present and causing lower back pain, the tumor isnt always cancerous.
If the lower back pain is related to metastatic cancer, its important to talk to your doctor about your treatment outlook. When cancers start to spread, this may indicate a poorer prognosis.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer symptoms vary widely from lumps to swelling to skin changes and many breast cancers have no obvious symptoms at all.
In some cases, a lump may be too small for you to feel or to cause any unusual changes you can notice on your own. Often, an abnormal area turns up on a screening mammogram , which leads to further testing.
In other cases, however, the first sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass in the breast that you or your doctor can feel. A lump that is painless, hard, and has uneven edges is more likely to be cancer. But sometimes cancers can be tender, soft, and rounded.
a lump in the underarm area
These changes also can be signs of less serious conditions that are not cancerous, such as an infection or a cyst. Again, its important to get any breast changes checked out promptly by a doctor.
Its smart to perform a monthly breast self-exam so you are familiar with your breasts and have a better chance of noticing any changes. And you should visit your doctor if you experience breast changes.
If youre over 40 or at a high risk of breast cancer, you should also have an annual mammogram and physical exam by a doctor. The earlier breast cancer is found and diagnosed, the better your chances of successful treatment.