Is it normal to have pain after breast surgery? I had a mastectomy two years ago. How can I cope?
Answer From Sandhya Pruthi, M.D.
You're not alone in having pain after breast surgery. Studies of women who had a variety of breast cancer operations found that between 25 and 60 percent reported some level of pain or sensations after breast surgery.
Breast cancer surgery requires that some nerves in the breast be cut. This can lead to:
- Pain that feels like it's happening in the breast that's been removed (phantom breast pain)
- Being super sensitive to pain (hyperalgesia)
- Painless stimuli, such as clothing touching the area, might be perceived as painful (allodynia)
- Abnormal nerve growths in the area where scar tissue and nerves grow together (neuromas)
- Sensations of burning, constricting or stabbing-type pain
- Loss of feeling or numbness in the area of the surgery
Treatment for breast pain after surgery depends on the type and severity of pain you're experiencing. Treatment options might include:
- Medications, including over-the-counter or prescription pain medications, such as painkillers, drugs used to treat depression and drugs used to prevent seizures
- Skin creams with medicine that may help control pain, such as capsaicin
- Injections of pain medicines or other substances that can control nerve pain
- Surgery to remove a neuroma or to revise a surgical scar that's causing pain
- Physical therapy to strengthen muscles and improve mobility in your shoulder
- Complementary therapies, such as acupuncture or biofeedback
Talk with your doctor about what may offer you the most relief.
Aug. 19, 2022
From Mayo Clinic to your inbox
Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.
ErrorEmail field is required
ErrorInclude a valid email address
To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which
information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with
other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could
include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected
health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health
information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of
privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on
the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.
Thank you for subscribing!
You'll soon start receiving the latest Mayo Clinic health information you requested in your inbox.
Sorry something went wrong with your subscription
Please, try again in a couple of minutes
See more Expert Answers
- Tait RC, et al. Persistent post-mastectomy pain: Current status and future directions. The Journal of Pain. In press. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1526590018303109. Accessed Aug. 10, 2018.
- Larsson IM, et al. The post-mastectomy pain syndrome: A systematic review of the treatment modalities. The Breast Journal. 2017;23:338.
- Shen J. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of postmastectomy pain syndrome. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Aug. 10, 2018.
- Shen J. Postmastectomy pain syndrome: Risk reduction and management. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Aug. 10, 2018.