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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Pain management for breast cancer

pain management

Pain management for breast cancer

During the course of your breast cancer journey, you may experience pain from the cancer itself, or as a side effect of treatment. Pain associated with breast cancer is generally related to the stage of the disease. For example, a breast lump typically has no pain. However, if the disease progresses or metastasizes to the bone, you may experience sharp and/or achy pains.

We understand that unrelieved breast cancer pain may impact your quality of life as well as your ability to battle the disease. Throughout your treatment, our pain management team will proactively work to manage and control your pain so you can focus on healing. 

Some pain management approaches for breast cancer patients include:

  • Pharmacological pain control: Some common breast cancer pain medications include anti-inflammatory drugs, narcotics and steroids.
  • Neuropathic pain control: Your pain management practitioner will consult with other members of your care team and may recommend nerve injections, implanted pain pumps or nerve stimulation devices like Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation (TENS) to help promote nerve regeneration.
  • Palliative treatments: For breast cancer that has spread to the liver, radiation therapy may help to reduce the size of the tumor on the liver. If you experience pleural effusion (abnormal fluid build-up around the lungs), a thoracentesis may be used to drain fluid that surrounds the lungs and help you breathe better.

Aside from your oncologists, your breast cancer pain management practitioner will consult regularly with other members of your care team to balance pain medicine with supportive options, such as oncology rehabilitation therapies, naturopathic medicine and mind-body medicine.

What is pain management?

Pain management is a branch of medicine focused on reducing pain and improving quality of life through an integrative approach to care. Pain management is particularly important for cancer patients, considering one in three patients continues to experience pain after treatment. 

If you have pain, the severity and prevalence of your pain may depend on many factors, including the type and stage of your cancer, your treatment plan and your tolerance for pain. You may experience pain from the cancer itself, or as a side effect of cancer treatment. Those with advanced cancer are most likely to have severe pain. Cancer pain may result from:

  • A tumor putting pressure on tissues, bones, nerves or organs
  • Poor blood circulation because the cancer has blocked blood vessels
  • Blockage of an organ or tube in the body, such as the kidneys or bladder
  • Side effects of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or other cancer treatments
  • Metastasis, or cancer cells that have spread to other locations in the body
  • Pain that is completely independent from cancer or cancer treatment (e.g., headaches, backaches, muscle strains, arthritis or other common pains)
Pain management may improve quality of life at any stage of cancer, so managing your pain is our priority. Our experienced pain management team cares for you throughout your treatment, to help reduce your pain and help you get comfortable. We use a variety of modalities to treat and control pain, including:

  • Prescription medications
  • Implanted pain pumps
  • Nerve block therapies
  • Physical therapy
  • Acupuncture and auriculotherapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Relaxation techniques and guided imagery
  • Chiropractic treatment

Advanced Surgical Recovery Program (ASURE)

Pain is one of the most common side effects of surgery, and managing pain is essential to helping patients get back to their normal activities. That’s why we developed the Advanced Surgical Recovery Program (ASURE), which designed to help patients recover more quickly from surgery with fewer complications. ASURE is intended to help manage pain during and after surgery. The enhanced recovery methods used in ASURE are designed to reduce the amount of narcotics used in post-surgical care and help patients resume their everyday lives. Learn more about ASURE.

Experienced care team

The team approach to care is critical for pain management. Our team of pain management providers work with your oncologist and other members of your care team to manage your pain related to cancer or its treatment. In addition to medication, your pain management regimen may include one or more of our supportive care services, such as:

  • Naturopathic medicine, which uses natural therapies to help you combat pain, as well as reduce the hormonal side effects that may accompany cancer treatment
  • Oncology rehabilitation, which plays a key role in pain management by using a variety of physical therapy and other techniques to improve mobility and trigger the release of endorphins, which is the body's natural defense against pain
  • The mind-body medicine team, which is available to teach you relaxation tools to help you manage pain, and to reduce the anxiety and fatigue related to cancer or its treatment

For patients staying at the hospital, the pain management team is available for referrals. During these visits, pain management practitioners thoroughly evaluate your pain level and assess how your pain management approach is working. Based on their evaluation, these clinicians will make modifications to your treatment plan as needed.

Personalized treatment approach

The pain symptoms you experience are unique to you, which is why we tailor your pain management plan to your individual case. Pain itself may be dull, achy or sharp. It may occur frequently or once in a while, and it may be mild, moderate or severe. The pain you experience may depend on your cancer type and stage, how much the cancer has spread, and how sensitive you are to pain (your pain tolerance). Whatever type of pain you experience, we want to treat it early to prevent it from worsening.

Managing side effects

Some prescription medicines used to treat pain have side effects, including nausea, vomiting, itching, constipation and drowsiness. Your doctor may change the dosage, the time the medicine is taken or the medicine itself to see if you experience fewer side effects. In addition, our supportive care practitioners will work together to help you manage side effects that you experience with pain management. We offer nutrition therapy, naturopathic medicine, mind-body medicine and other services.

Pain management