Breast tissue pain

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I have had a lumpectomy in December 23 and Node clearance Jan 24 followed by 20x Radiotherapy April 24. I am also taking 20g Tamoxifen since Feb 24. I seem to have more pain in the area of Radiotherapy than after surgery. The breast tissue, armpit and chest. Just wondering is this normal. There is no discolouration and skin is healthy again. Also I take Co codimal 30/500 just wondering if nerve endings would be better treated with another drug. Thanks 

  • Hello Torie

    Thanks for getting in touch. My name is Adele, I’m one of the Cancer Information Nurses on the Macmillan Support Line.

    Welcome to our online community and thanks for posting your question.

    I am sorry to hear that you have pain in your breast, arm pit and chest after your radiotherapy treatment.

    Radiotherapy to the breast has a variety of different side effects  Some of these, for example a skin reaction, can resolve within weeks of completing treatment.  However, some side effects can take longer to improve.

    People can experience pain in their breast or chest area after the treatment.  This is usually described as an ache but some people experience twinges or sharp pain.  Usually, the pain is mild in nature but everyone is different in the type and amount of pain they may experience.

    The pain usually lessens with time but some people can experience ongoing pain, which can take months or years to fully resolve.  The pain after radiotherapy is usually musculoskeletal in nature, as it affects the muscles, joints and bones.

    Some people also experience stiffness in the shoulder or chest after treatment, which can also be uncomfortable.  It is beneficial to maintain arm and shoulder exercises to reduce stiffness.  Your breast care team may have given you some exercises to do but they can also be found here.

    In rare case radiotherapy can cause damage to the nerves in the shoulder.  The symptoms of this include numbness and pain in the fingers and hands.  However, due to improvements in radiotherapy techniques, this is now a rare complication of treatment.

    With all of these things we would suggest that you talk to your doctor, or your breast care nurse about the pain you are experiencing.  They will then be able to assess your pain and recommend the best way for it to be managed.

    Sometimes, it can be helpful to think about your pain in advance of the conversation, so that you can describe the severity of it, how it is impacting on your daily life and things that make it better or worse.  A pain diary can help in detecting trends and can also be helpful when considering the benefits of any prescribed treatment or therapy.

    Sometimes the team may recommend different approaches, like physiotherapy, if they think that stiffness, or reduced movement is contributing to your pain.  They will also review your medication.  After their assessment they will determine what pain killers are best for you.  As you mentioned, there are different types of medications for different types of pain.  If they think there is some nerve involvement, they will consider if a different drug would be of benefit to you.

    You may also find it helpful to talk to someone who has had similar experiences to you.  Our online community have forums for different cancer types and experiences.  These include the breast cancer forum, which you may like to explore.

    Breast Cancer Now also have ‘Someone like me’, which matches you to a trained volunteer who has had similar experience to you.  Everyone is different but some people find benefit from talking to others who can understand what you are going through.

    I hope this information is useful. Please don’t hesitate to get back in contact by email, webchat or phone, if you need further information or support.

    The Macmillan Support Line offers practical, clinical, financial and emotional support. You can call us free from landlines and from most mobile phone networks on 0808 808 00 00, 7 days a week, 8am – 8pm.


    Best wishes, Adele

    Cancer Information Nurse Specialist 


    Ref AON/GES