Mastectomy, sentinel lymph node biopsy and axillary lymph node dissection can cause nerve pain in the arm or armpit, and mastectomy can cause nerve pain in the chest wall. This may feel like pins and needles, tingling or stabbing pain. It usually settles within a few weeks. If nerve pain is ongoing, ask your doctor about ways to manage it.
Certain chemotherapy drugs can damage nerves in the hands and feet. This is called peripheral neuropathy or chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), and it can cause weakness, numbness, pins and needles and, occasionally, burning or shooting pain. These symptoms are usually temporary and start to get better over a matter of months, but they can be permanent.
If you have any symptoms, tell your health care team. Your doctor will help you manage pain from any permanent nerve damage.
A psychologist or counsellor can teach you coping strategies to manage any ongoing pain. A physiotherapist and occupational help you improve or manage symptoms.
For more on this, see Peripheral neuropathy and cancer and listen to the podcast below.
Podcast: Managing Cancer Pain
A/Prof Elisabeth Elder, Specialist Breast Surgeon, Westmead Breast Cancer Institute and The University of Sydney, NSW; Collette Butler, Clinical Nurse Consultant and McGrath Breast Care Nurse, Cancer Support Centre, Launceston, TAS; Tania Cercone, Consumer; Kate Cox, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Dr Marcus Dreosti, Radiation Oncologist and Medical Director, GenesisCare, SA; Dr Susan Fraser, Breast Physician, Cairns Hospital and Marlin Coast Surgery Cairns, QLD; Dr Hilda High, Genetic Oncologist, Sydney Cancer Genetics, NSW; Prof David W Kissane AC, Chair of Palliative Medicine Research, The University of Notre Dame Australia, and St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, NSW; Prof Sherene Loi, Medical Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr W Kevin Patterson, Medical Oncologist, Adelaide Oncology and Haematology, SA; Angela Thomas, Consumer; Iwa Yeung, Physiotherapist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD.
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