Diagnosing Chest Wall Pain
See your GP if your breast pain is new and carries on.
Your GP will examine your breasts and take a history of the type of pain you have and how often it occurs. To check how long the pain lasts for, how severe the pain is or if the pain may be linked to your menstrual cycle, your GP may ask you to fill in a simple pain chart.
If your GP thinks you may have chest wall pain, they may ask you to lean forward during the examination. This is to help them assess if the pain is inside your breast or in the chest wall.
Your GP may refer you to a breast clinic where youll be seen by specialist doctors or nurses for a more detailed assessment.
A Lump In The Breast Or Armpit
Most of the women may find that their breasts feel lumpy because breast tissue often has a lumpy texture. But, if you feel a hard and immovable lump under the armpit or breast region, then you should see your doctor straight away. It is a sign of breast cancer. The presence of a lump in the breast or armpit is the first symptom of breast cancer in many women.
The Course Of A Cancerous Spinal Tumor
A cancerous spinal tumors rate of growth can vary depending on the type. A tumor may be relatively small and contained within the spine, or it could have already spread through blood or lymph from another area of the body. An untreated cancerous spinal tumor is likely to keep growing and may become life-threatening.
Treatment options for spinal cancer may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and/or surgical removal of the tumor. In cases when the patient is unlikely to tolerate surgery well or has advanced cancer, palliative care may be offered to reduce pain and stay as comfortable as possible, rather than removing the tumor.
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Men And Breast Cancer Warning Signs
Breast cancer isnt typically associated with people who were assigned male at birth. But male breast cancer can occur in rare instances at any age, although its more common in older men.
Many people dont realize that people assigned male at birth have breast tissue too, and those cells can undergo cancerous changes. Because male breast cells are much less developed than female breast cells, breast cancer isnt as common in this part of the population.
The most common symptom of breast cancer in people assigned male at birth is a lump in the breast tissue.
Other than a lump, symptoms of male breast cancer include:
- thickening of the breast tissue
- nipple discharge
- redness or scaling of the nipple
- a nipple that retracts or turns inward
- unexplained redness, swelling, skin irritation, itchiness, or rash on the breast
Most men dont regularly check their breast tissue for signs of lumps, so male breast cancer is often diagnosed much later.
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Breast Cancer And Shoulder Blade Pain
Some women may feel back pain in the upper back between the shoulder blades before any other sign of breast cancer reveals itself. The discomfort is usually attributed to muscle pain, inflammation of the spine or stretching the tendon and ligaments in the back.
Its important to know that tumors will sometimes develop deep within the breast tissue of the chest and felt in the spine or ribcage. There is also the possibility of metasis, a malignant spreading of the disease to the ribs or spine.
For example, The National Breast Cancer Foundation reports about a patient who was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and suffered from a severe back pain.5
The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association reported that metastatic bone disease secondary to breast cancer is a common cause of low back pain. The report stressed the need for further imaging in patients with a history of breast cancer and whose physical examination and plain film radiographs are inconclusive or suspicious.6
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Response To Other Treatments
If these treatments do not work and your healthcare provider suspects that there is another cause of your back pain, they may order more tests. These tests can include blood tests, MRI, and computed tomography scans, depending on your symptoms, medical history, and physical examination.
The goal of treatment is to restore function and increase strength so that you can return to your daily activities with little to no pain. When the pain does not respond to conservative treatments, surgery may be indicated in instances where there is disc herniation or other structural damage.
Palliative And Supportive Care
Palliative and supportive care focuses on symptom control and support. Its an extremely important part of the care and treatment for many people with secondary breast cancer and can significantly improve quality of life for them and their families.
People often think of palliative care as being associated with end-of-life treatment. However, many people value having it at any stage of their illness, alongside their medical treatment, to help prevent and relieve symptoms such as pain or fatigue. It can also help with the emotional, social and spiritual effects of secondary breast cancer.
You can be referred by your specialist team, GP or breast care nurse depending on your situation. Some people may be able to refer themselves.
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How Might Pain Affect People With Cancer
Any type of pain, not just cancer pain, can affect all parts of a person’s life. Some days it may be better or worse than others.
If you have pain, you might not be able to do your job well or take part in other day-to-day activities. You may have trouble sleeping and eating. You might be irritable with the people you love. Its easy to get frustrated, sad, and even angry when youre in pain. Family and friends dont always understand how youre feeling, and you may feel very alone. This is not unusual, so it’s important to talk about your pain with your health care team so they can help.
How Is Metastasized Breast Cancer Diagnosed
When back pain is the first noticeable symptom of breast cancer, diagnosis is usually a process of elimination to rule out other possible sources of spine-related pain such as disc herniation, muscle strain, and sciatica. If breast cancer is confirmed, diagnosing where it has spread to typically involves:
- Blood tests to confirm if the cancer is in bone tissues in the spine
- Bone scans to identify which part of the spine is affected
- MRI and CT scans to determine if soft tissues around the backbone are affected
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What Is Breast Pain What Are The Symptoms
Breast pain, otherwise known as mastalgia, is very common in women, occurring in nearly 70% of women and is rarely linked to breast cancer. Breast pain is a feeling that occurs in the breast region that may cause the breast to feel tender or sore. The pain may range from a dull ache or throb, to a stabbing pain, a burning sensation, or a feeling of tightness. The pain can be constant or can happen occasionally, ranging from mild to severe.
What Type Of Breast Cancer Causes Pain
The primary extracellular matrix components and cell-surface receptors which aid in metastasis are:
Metastatic breast-cancer cells excrete lysophosphatidic acid which binds to receptors on tumor cells, inducing cell proliferation and release of cytokines and stimulating bone resorption. After the breast-cancer cells have left the primary tumor, they interact with the bone microenvironment and secrete osteolytic factors capable of osteoclast formation and bone resorption. Apart from the breast tumor cells, the resident stromal cells also contribute to tumor survival. Growth factors such as epidermal growth factor , fibroblast growth factor and transforming growth factor beta are implicated in the development and progression of metastatic breast cancer.
- Matrix metalloproteinases
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‘you’re Dying Of Breast Cancer And There’s No Cure’
There’s no oncologist in my county, so I went to Columbus for a second opinion from doctors at Ohio State University. While I was there, I told them about my back pain. That prompted them to do a CT scan, which showed the cancer had possibly gone to my spine. I needed another biopsy to confirm this, and within a week I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. I went from hearing, Youre too young to have breast cancer to Youre dying of breast cancer and theres no cure.
When I learned that the terrible pain in my back was due to metastatic cancer in my spine , I first wanted to hug my oncologist. Not because I was excited to have cancer, but because someone finally gave me an answer that explained why my back had hurt so much, confirming that it wasn’t all in my head.
But then, as this information sank in, finding out that it was cancer felt like I was getting punched in the stomach. All I could think was, How long has this been going on? I thought back to the rheumatologist I had seen just a couple of weeks before, who told me I was “fine” and to only come back if the pain got worse.
I then discovered something chilling. A note had been left in my medical records by one of the doctors I had seen for the back pain. It mentioned that “suspicious lesions” were found on my spine and hip bone after a scan I had a year earlier. No one ever followed up or told me about this.
Bone Weakening And Fracture
Secondary breast cancer in the bone may mean that the affected bones are weakened, which can increase the risk of fracture. This is called a pathological fracture, which means the break in the bone is due to disease and not caused by an accident.
If a bone has fractured you may need surgery to try to repair the fracture. You may also be given drug treatment to stop this happening in the future.
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Newly Diagnosed Or Worried About A Symptom
In the days or weeks after a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer, you may feel in turmoil and find it hard to think clearly.
You can read our information for people newly diagnosed with secondary breast cancer, including where to find support.
If you havent been diagnosed but are worried about a symptom, find out more about the signs and symptoms of secondary breast cancer.
Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women aging between 20 and 60 years. It can be easily treated and cured when detected in early stages. Therefore, understanding the warning signs of breast cancer can be of great help.
The warning signs of breast cancer are not same for all the women. The common signs include a change in the look or feel of the breast or nipple and nipple discharge. Other signs include:
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What If Doctors Had Diagnosed Me Earlier
Maintaining my quality of life is the biggest thing for me now. If I know quantity is going to be short, then the time Im going to have is going to be good time. Im always going to have a little bit of pain, but its about what I can tolerate, and I have a conversation going with my palliative care team, who is fantastic.
I moved home after I was diagnosed, thinking Id be home for a year for treatment. Then I found out Id be in treatment for the rest of my life. I had to quit my job and go on disability because of my bone metastases. My treatment schedule is pretty rigorous. I sometimes have three or four appointments in a day. But staying alive is my full-time job now.
How Is Secondary Breast Cancer In The Bone Treated
Treatment for secondary breast cancer in the bone aims to relieve symptoms such as pain, maintain and improve mobility and strengthen the bones, as well as slow down the growth of the cancer.
Treatments can be given alone or in combination.
When making decisions about how the best treatment for you, your specialist team will consider factors such as:
- how extensive the cancer is in the bones
- whether the cancer has spread to other organs
- any symptoms you have
- what treatment youve had in the past
- the features of the cancer
- whether you have been through the menopause
- your general health
Your specialist should discuss any recommendations for treatment with you and take your wishes into account. They will talk with you about your options, explain what the aims of treatment will be and help you weigh up the potential benefits against the possible side effects.
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Feeling A Mysterious Lump
Later in March, I rolled over in bed and felt something on my side. Am I lying on my cell phone? I thought to myself. I reached over to grab what I thought was my phone digging into me and instead felt a really hard mass on my side.
I was sleeping at my parents house that day. I called out to my mom, who is a nurse. Im probably overthinking this, I said, but can you see what you think? She felt the lump and looked concerned. I underwent a breast reduction in 2008, so areas in my breast did feel hard because of normal scar tissue. Yet this didnt feel like scar tissue. My mom thought I was too young for breast cancer and that it was probably nothing, but she suggested I get it checked.
I live in the small town of Bellefontaine, Ohio, and the nurse practitioner in town was able to quickly schedule me for a mammogram that following Mondayso I didn’t have to cancel the 30th birthday trip to Nashville I’d planned. After the initial mammogram, I kept getting called back in to be re-scanned. Then I found out I needed a biopsy. A week later, I was told I had breast cancer.
The news was devastating I remember feeling like everything was a blur. The nurse asked me if I wanted her to continue giving me more information, and I had to tell her I needed a break and a moment to breathe. My mom was with me, and I cried with her. I said I wanted to keep my diagnosis a secret, because I didn’t want people in my life to look at me and just see cancer.
If You Experience Pain Along With Any Of The Following Symptoms You Should Contact Your Physician
- Bloody or clear discharge from your nipple
- A new lump with the onset of the pain lump does not go away after your menstrual period
- Persistent, unexplained breast pain
- Signs of a breast infection, including local redness, pus, or fever
- Redness of the skin of the breast that may appear as a rash, with dilated pores, and possibly skin thickening.
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When To See A Doctor
In a majority of breast pain as described above, there is usually no cause for alarm. However, if you notice something unusual about the pain or appearance of your breast, and have cause for concern, it may be good to speak with a doctor.
Breast pain is rarely indicative of breast cancer, even though that may be the first thought that many women might fear. Make an appointment with the doctor, if you notice:
- New lumps or existing lumps increase in size or change in skin color
- Swelling of all or part of a breast
- Skin dimpling
- Change in the size or shape of your breast
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- Nipple turning inward
- Discharge from the nipple, especially if the discharge is brown or bloody
- Breast pain that is severe and that bothers you
- Hard lumps that occur only in one breast.
Tips On How To Relieve Breast Pain
According to the Cancer Council, there are various ways you can manage breast pain. These include:
- Ensuring you have a supportive and well-fitting bra, and an appropriate sports bra
- Wearing a soft, support bra for bed
- Speak to your doctor about applying non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication or other form of pain relief such as paracetamol
- Cutting down your caffeine intake
- Having a hot shower or bath or soothing the pain with a heat pack. Alternatively, some women may find an ice pack more suitable.
If the pain persists or continues to worsen, consult with your GP.
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Getting Treatment For Terminal Cancer
My cancer was estrogen-receptor positive, so I initially went on tamoxifen, a type of hormone therapy that can slow tumor growth in some breast cancers. Meanwhile, my body was put into medication-induced menopause to make me a candidate for future hormone therapy and chemotherapy treatments. I was on many different medications to stop my cancer from progressing, and for about two years it worked. Then it progressed.
To try to get it under control, I endured different palliative surgeries and radiation, but these left me with more side effects. The tissue around my left breast where my tumor is became rock-hard and very painful. Radiation burns in my stomach prevent me from tolerating much fiber.
Ive also experienced severe pain, as the cancer has since spread to my bones. At first I would transition back and forth between a wheelchair, walker, and on one occasion, a cane. Currently, with the correct pain medications, I rarely have to use a cane or chair, and I even walked 22 miles around Disney World last Februarysomething I would have said was impossible a year prior.
Now, I have scans every three months to check for progressions, and I go to my oncologist every month to do blood work. If I ever have any extra pain or other symptoms, sometimes my scans are moved up to double-check everything. I try to resist living in three-month increments I’ve actually planned a trip to Europe soon.