A mastectomy, or the surgical removal of the breast, is often done in order to reduce other symptoms, usually due to breast cancer. Unfortunately, many patients experience pain in the area up to a few years following the procedure.
What are the symptoms?
Post-mastectomy pain can be burning, throbbing, or sharp. Other symptoms can include numbness, a burning sensation, and inflammation of the skin.
What are the causes of post-mastectomy pain?
During the removal of the breast, nerve damage can occur. It is also possible for the scar tissue from the procedure to grow together with nerves, causing abnormal growths that are painful. Additionally, phantom pain, characterized by the intense pain felt in an area of the body that has been removed, can be felt as a result of signals sent by the brain and spinal cord.
How is it treated?
Local anesthetics can be used to relieve post-mastectomy pain. Nerve blocks can also be used and work to block pain signals sent from the nerve endings to the brain. In some cases, an intrathecal pump may be placed. This allows concentrated pain medication to be delivered to the source of pain consistently.