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Lower Back Pain After Chemo For Breast Cancer

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Can Breast Cancer cause lower back pain? – Dr. Shailaja N

Right after radiation, my armpit didnt sweat and my armpit hair hardly grew. Around year 3, my armpit would sweat sometimes, and the hair began to grow back. I was beginning to notice a tightness and dull pain in my rib cage, my upper back, and shoulder area. I was worried about recurrence. They are usually caused by overuse, improper lifting of heavy objects, or sports. Being overweight or having weak back muscles are both risk factors for back injury. Symptoms may include a pop or tear at the time of injury pain that is worse when moving and sudden muscle cramping or spasm at the site of the injury. . Lower back pain can radiate to other parts of the body: up or down from its place of origin. Sometimes lower back pain can be on one side of the back, which is also normal. If the pain is shooting from the lower back into one or both legs, it could be sciatica , but its not always the case. There are many parts in the lower back. Options for relieving pain when cancer spreads to the bones from the breast include: prescription pain relief medication. radiation therapy. bisphosphonates, such as pamidronate or.

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Pain From The Cancer Itself

Pain from the cancer can be caused by a tumor pressing on nerves, bones, or organs.

Spinal cord compression: When a tumor spreads to the spine, it can press on the nerves of the spinal cord. This is called spinal cord compression. The first symptom of spinal cord compression is usually back and/or neck pain, and sometimes it is severe. Pain, numbness, or weakness may also happen in an arm or leg. Coughing, sneezing, or other movements often make the pain worse. If you have this kind of pain, it is considered an emergency and you should get help right away.

Spinal cord compression must be treated right away to keep you from losing control of your bladder or bowel or being paralyzed. If youre treated for the compression soon after the pain begins, you can usually avoid serious outcomes. Treatment for spinal cord compression usually involves radiation therapy to the area where the tumor is pressing on the spine and steroidsto shrink the tumor. Or you may be able to have surgery to remove a tumor thats pressing on the spine, which may then be followed by radiation.

Bone pain can also happen as a side effect of medicines known as growth factor drugs or colony-stimulating factors . These drugs may be given to help prevent white blood cell counts from dropping after treatment. CSF drugs help the body produce more WBCs which are made in the bone marrow. Because the bone marrow activity is higher with these drugs, bone pain may occur.

Simple Changes To Help Improve Your Appetite

      • Try eating small amounts throughout the day rather than sitting down to large meals at set times.
      • Explain to friends and family why youre not eating big family meals. Make it clear that this is a positive strategy rather than a sign you are not eating enough.
      • Make it easy to eat. Stock up on nourishing foods that are easy to prepare, ask others to prepare food for you, or use healthy, ready-prepared foods when you are too tired to cook.
      • Reduce food and cooking smells turn on a fan or open the windows.
      • Where possible, choose nutritious foods you enjoy but dont force yourself to eat things you dont fancy just because theyre good for you.
      • Keep a glass of water handy if your mouth is dry, but restrict yourself to small sips too much water may make you feel full. You could also try sucking on small ice cubes.
      • Dont rush, and dont force yourself to eat.
      • If you are finding it difficult to eat solid food, drink protein and carbohydrate mixes for energy, protein and vitamins.
      • Soft foods may be more appealing if your mouth is dry or sore. Try soft, slow-cooked stews and soups, custards and yoghurts.

People who eat a quality, balanced diet dont generally need supplements. However, when you have cancer, problems with appetite may mean your diet isnt as balanced as it could be. Daily multivitamin and mineral supplements might help improve your appetite. Your doctor, pharmacist or dietitian will be able to help you find the most appropriate ones for you.

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Chemo Brain And Stress

Many people experience mental changes after chemotherapy treatment. This is sometimes called chemo brain. You may have problems such as poor memory, trouble finding words, difficulty focusing. This can affect parts of your life, including caring for your family and managing your job.

Some things that help with chemo brain include keeping a calendar, writing everything down, and exercising your brain with puzzles and reading. Try to focus on 1 task at a time instead of more than 1 task. You can also work with an occupational therapist for cognitive behavioral rehabilitation. This is a treatment to help you if you have cognitive issues. Occupational therapists work in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Occupational and Physical Therapy. For more information about cognitive behavioral rehabilitation, talk with your healthcare provider for a referral.

Try to avoid having goals for yourself that are too high. This can add to your stress level and frustration. Most people say it takes 6 to 12 months after they finish chemotherapy before they truly feel like themselves again. Read the resource Managing Cognitive Changes for more information about managing chemo brain.

Where Can Breast Cancer Spread

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The most common places for breast cancer to spread to are the lymph nodes, bone, liver, lungs and brain. The symptoms you may experience will depend on where in the body the cancer has spread to. You might not have all of the symptoms mentioned here.

Remember other conditions can cause these symptoms. They don’t necessarily mean that you have cancer that has spread. But if you have symptoms that you are worried about, discuss them with your GP, cancer specialist, or breast care nurse so that you can be checked.

Read Also: Can Pinching Breasts Cause Cancer

Diagnosing Your Back Pain

Tell your doctor right away if your back starts to hurt. They’ll try to figure out the cause of your back pain to decide on the best treatments.

You may need to have tests that can help your doctor see the bones inside your back. These can include:

Your doctor may also want you to get a blood test to check your calcium levels. If they are higher than normal, it could be a cause of your pain.

What Are Late Effects

Most women have side effects during treatment for breast cancer and for a few weeks after treatment ends. Usually, these side effects get better slowly and then stop. But sometimes side effects do not go away. Or they can develop months or years after treatment.

There are two commonly used terms for these side effects:

  • Long-term effects Long-term effects begin during, or shortly after, treatment. They last for more than 6 months after treatment has finished. They may go away on their own, with symptoms getting better over 1 or 2 years after treatment. Or they may be permanent.
  • Late effects Late effects are a delayed reaction to treatment. They do not appear during treatment, but can happen months or even years later.

In this information, we use the term late effects to describe both long-term and late effects.

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Symptoms That May Indicate The Presence Of Cancer

At times, unexpected symptoms that arise along with lower back pain may be disregarded as minor issues that might resolve on their own. However, certain changes may be linked to cancer.

Signs that suggest cancer include:

  • Extreme fatigue of an unknown origin
  • Dramatic changes in urinary or bowel function
  • Blood in the stool or urine
  • Rapid and unexplained weight loss
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms or legs
  • Lower back pain that is mainly experienced early in the morning upon waking or at night
  • Lower back pain that gradually improves during the day or completely goes away
  • Lower back pain that does not appear to be associated with movement and does not worsen with movement
  • Lower back pain that does not resolve after a physical therapy regimen or other medical treatments

Any other type of unexplained symptoms that impede daily activities should be evaluated. In addition, lower back pain does not have to be extreme to indicate the presence of cancer, and the pain can range in severity.

Palliative Care Or Pain Specialists

Muscle Imbalance Test for Back Pain After Breast Cancer

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. They can also help you and your family identify your hopes and worries.

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The Cancer Spread And I Lost My Mom

It was really hard losing my mom. Even in my first bout of health issues with ulcerative colitis, my mother was right by my side. She’d stay at the hospital with me. She nursed me back to health, all while she was dealing with her own COPD and lung cancer. For a while, we thought we were both going to die at the same time. I would apologize because I was too sick to do anything for her. We were both useless to one another except for emotional support. Her death added a whole other level of grief.

Side Effects Of Chemotherapy And How To Deal With Them

Story submitted by Sue Weber, RN, MEd, OCN, TriHealth Cancer Institute

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Chemotherapy affects any fast-growing cells in the body, like the ones that line your mouth and intestines, as well as the cells that make up your bone marrow and hair follicles, With chemo, normal, healthy cells should bounce back and, ideally, the cancer cells dont. Chemo may be used to:

  • Cure the cancer
  • Prevent the cancer from spreading
  • Relieve symptoms the cancer may be causing

Sue Weber, RN, MEd, OCN, of the TriHealth Cancer Institute, explains common side effects of chemo and ways to deal with each.

Also Check: Does Breast Cancer Cause Pain In Your Breast

Ask Your Doctor About Complementary Therapies

Complementary therapies such as massage may be helpful for some women. Some hospitals offer massage on the NHS. It is very important to talk to your cancer doctor or specialist nurse before starting complementary therapies. They can talk to you about any possible harmful impacts they could have on your cancer treatment, and about any possible side effects.

Symptoms If Cancer Has Spread To The Lymph Nodes

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Lymph nodes are part of a system of tubes and glands in the body that filters body fluids and fights infection.

The most common symptom if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes is that they feel hard or swollen. You might have any of the following symptoms if your cancer has spread to the lymph nodes:

  • a lump or swelling under your armpit
  • swelling in your arm or hand
  • a lump or swelling in your breast bone or collar bone area

One of the first places breast cancer can spread to is the lymph nodes under the arm on the same side as the breast cancer. This is not a secondary cancer.

Read Also: Can You Die From Metastatic Breast Cancer

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.

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

Also Check: How Quickly Does Breast Cancer Spread To Lymph Nodes

Decrease In Blood Cell Counts:

Why it happens: Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body, white blood cells help fight infection, and platelets help stop bleeding. These normal, healthy cells divide rapidly, just like the cancer cells, which is why chemo often affects these benign cells in addition to the cancer cells.

How to handle anemia :

  • Get at least eight hours of sleep each night
  • Take short naps during the day
  • Limit your activities by setting priorities of what you need to get completed for the day
  • Accept help when your family and friends offer
  • Eat a well-balanced diet that contains all the calories and protein your body needs to keep your weight up and repair tissues that have been harmed by the chemo

How to handle infections :

  • Wash your hands with soap and water
  • Carry hand sanitizer
  • Use sanitizing wipes to clean surfaces and items that you touch
  • Be gentle and thorough when you wipe after a bowel movement
  • Take good care of your skin and clean cuts right away
  • Stay away from people who are sick or crowds
  • Wash raw vegetables and fruits before eating them
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked fish, seafood, meat, chicken, or eggs
  • If you are a pet owner, have someone else clean up animal waste
  • Do not get a flu shot or other vaccine without first checking with your cancer doctor or nurse.

How to handle a low platelet count:

Your doctor or nurse will order blood tests to find out your blood counts throughout your chemo treatment.

How Is Joint Pain Diagnosed

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Your health care provider will evaluate your symptoms and medical history. They will do a physical exam and ask you questions such as:

  • Which joint hurts? Is the pain in more than 1 area?

  • How long have you had joint pain?

  • How severe is your joint pain?

  • When does your pain start and stop?

  • What makes your joint pain better or worse?

  • Is your joint pain affecting your ability to do everyday tasks?

If severe joint pain is caused by your cancer treatment, your provider may recommend trying a different treatment, having treatments less often, or getting a lower dose.

If they are unsure about the cause of your joint pain or if your joint pain does not go away or gets worse, you may need additional tests to help find the cause. These can include:

Blood tests. These can show if your body has an infection or another condition that is not related to cancer.

Bone scan. These can find cancer that has started in the bones or spread to the bones.

Computed tomography scan. This scan makes a 3-dimensional image of the inside of the body.

Magnetic resonance imaging . An MRI uses magnetic fields to produce detailed images of the body.

X-rays. These create a picture of the structures inside the body and may be able to show the cause of your joint pain.

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Persistent Pain After Breast Cancer Surgery

Almost all of the 226,870 women diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 will undergo surgery , which raises the focus on the most commonly studied complications, the persistent pain following breast cancer surgery . PPBCS is different from other painful syndromes because it is typically localized to the anterior or lateral region of thorax, axillary and/or medial upper arm, causing burning pain, shooting pain, pressure sensation or numbness . The incidence of pain syndrome 6 months post-breast cancer surgical treatment was 52.9%. In relation to sensitive alteration, 52.6% patients have shown intercostobrachial pain, 1.3% neuroma and 3.2% have related phantom breast pain. Pain on the shoulder and/or thoracic-scapular area as a consequence of breast cancer surgical treatment was observed in 27.2% patients and . Younger women and those who were submitted to axillary lymphadenectomy have shown risk of developing pain syndrome after breast cancer surgical treatment .

Carriers of the minor allele for a single nucleotide polymorphism in interleukin 1-receptor 1 were less likely to report breast pain prior to surgery . Carriers of the minor allele for a SNP in IL13 were more likely to report breast pain prior to surgery . These findings suggest that breast pain occurs in over a quarter of women who are about to undergo breast cancer surgery likely in part due to difference in inflammatory mechanisms .

What Are The Treatment Options

Treating both breast cancer and back pain can be challenging. Back pain caused by cancer is often treated with radiation therapy to destroy the cancer cells. If the spine itself has been damaged, additional treatments may be necessary. Some patients with cancer that has metastasized to the spine benefit from:

  • Chemotherapy and hormone therapy drugs to treat the breast cancer
  • Bisphosphonates to prevent spinal fractures
  • Opiates for severe pain with careful monitoring due to addiction risk
  • Steroid drugs to treat back pain caused by swelling in the affected area
  • Non-drug treatments such as hot/cold applications, mental distraction, and natural wellness therapies

Patients with a family history of breast cancer should pay attention to any back pain that doesnt have a clear or suspected source. The same is true if typical breast cancer symptoms such as a detectable lump and swelling in the armpit are accompanied by back pain. Even if back pain isnt related to cancer, it shouldnt be ignored if its not going away on its own.

When back pain is severe enough to require a surgical procedure, there are a wide array of possible treatments available. At The Spine Institute, we specialize in many different minimally invasive procedures, from spinal decompression to XLIF surgery. Los Angeles patients shouldnt hesitate to call 310-828-7757 if theyre seeking a solution to alleviating their chronic pain. Get in touch today to schedule an in-person evaluation.

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