Dizziness and light-headedness

I underwent a left sided mastectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy just over 2 weeks ago following a diagnosis of breast cancer. Although there had been no symptoms up until the slight change in shape I noticed (and went straight to the GP for) the tumour showed as quite large and grade 3 on the biopsy and  MRI scan.

For this reason my Consultant requested staging scans (CT scans of the chest and abdomen plus a bone scan) before surgery. These were clear so surgery went ahead. I'm now awaiting my follow up appointment.

However, for the past week I've been experiencing really bad dizziness. It comes and goes but at times is so bad it makes me feel a bit sick. I've had all the obvious checks such as blood pressure, as well as blood tests to rule out things like anaemia and infection.  I'm drinking loads of water and eating really healthily and regularly so there is no obvious cause. I'm really worried about it having spread to my brain. My GP has now done a referral for a brain scan but says that dizziness (and some headaches) aren't the usual main symptoms they'd look for. When I've researched this myself it seems that both of these are symptoms so I'm really worried. 

  • Thanks for reaching out to us here at Macmillan Cancer Support. I am Gemma and I’m one of the Cancer Information Nurse Specialists here at the Macmillan support line.

    First of all, welcome to our online community, I hope you are finding it a helpful place to visit. I see you have joined our friendly breast cancer forum and have already had some great support offered. I hope you are finding it a helpful place to visit.

    It's only natural to worry about new changes or symptoms and what they may mean, after a cancer diagnosis. The fear of cancer spreading is very real and can make you feel very worried and anxious. People who have been through cancer treatment live with some worry, uncertainty, and a heightened awareness of when things are different within their own bodies. Although the cancer may be gone, the fear of cancer never goes entirely.

    Often when a cause for symptoms can’t be found, scans like this are considered in order to rule out spread to your brain as much as anything. That said, we do understand waiting for results can be an extremely anxious time, regardless of how the results turn out, it’s natural to feel scared, worried, and anxious at this time. In fact, increasing anxiety itself can cause physical symptoms too that can make it even harder to assess dizziness like this.

    While headaches and dizziness are sometimes caused by cancer in the brain, they are rarely alone.  They usually show up at the same time as other concerning symptoms.  It would be unusual for symptoms caused by brain tumours to come and go in this way too. It might be reassuring for you to read this information about the type of headaches cancer in the brain can cause.

    There is no right or wrong way for you to feel while waiting for your results.

    We do have some tips that might help to deal with fear, anxiety and difficult emotions at this time.

    Talking and sharing emotions and fears can be very important in helping to process emotions and for you both to feel supported.

    Looking after yourselves by eating well, keeping active or getting enough rest, and staying connected to the things you love can all help at this time.

    It can be good to practice self-care such as these relaxation techniques and complementary therapies that are safe for you.

    You shouldn’t start any new activity without running it past a member of your healthcare team or GP though, especially as you have had your surgery so recently.

    If you think it may be helpful to chat things over in more detail with one of the nurses here, please do give us a call. We can often explain things better over a spoken call with the opportunity to ask questions.

    Our ref: PW

    With Kind Regards, 
    Gemma J
    Macmillan Cancer Information Nurse Specialist