Supporting women whose lives have been touched by breast cancer

Post Mastectomy Pain Syndrome

by LS

I had a bilateral mastectomy with expander implants in January 2003 followed by insertion of permanent saline implants in January 2004. Whilst the temporary expander implants were in place I developed a capsular contracture on the left side. After the permanent implants were put in I again developed a capsular contracture on the left side. I also had continuous pain on both sides. In October 2006 I had further surgery to replace my round implants with tear shaped implants in the hope it would prevent further capsular contraction and alleviate some of the pain. I was told that if this surgery did not fix the problem then nothing more could be done.

I have a constant dull ache on my left side. I am always aware of the reconstruction on the left side. The implant itself feels tight. The dull ache on the right side comes and goes.

I get sharp stabbing pains which last a few minutes. There is no warning and no apparent trigger. These pains are sharp enough to make me double over or collapse. I’ve dropped a kettle of boiling water over colleagues and dropped a roast chicken I’ve just taken from the oven over my feet when these pains have hit. I no longer use my oven or lift full kettles. Yet in spite of this I would rather take these pains than the constant ache which wears me down.

I get pains in my shoulder joints which carry on down my arms. These pains can be aggravated by simple things like carrying a bag of shopping, hovering, washing windows can leave me in pain. At times I have got stuck in the bath because pains have hit. There have been times when I’ve gotten dressed in the morning and put on a close fitting tee-shirt. The pain has come on during the day and by the bed time I can’t raise my arms without unbearable pain. I’ve had to cut tee-shirts off because its easier than raising my arms to get them over my head. I now mostly wear button front or loose fitting tops. Things I would have previously taken for granted I now have to assess if it will cause me pain and if so, is there anything I can do to mitigate it or can I get someone else to help me with it.

I have lived on pain-killers for the past 6 years, I have tried hypnotherapy, massage, heat treatment and K-tape to name a few, none very successfully.