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What is post-mastectomy pain syndrome?

Post-mastectomy pain syndrome (PMPS) is chronic nerve (neuropathic) pain after lumpectomy or mastectomy. Studies have shown that between 20 and 60 percent of women develop PMPS after surgery, but it is often not recognized as such. The classic signs of PMPS are chest wall pain and tingling down the arm. Pain may also be felt in the shoulder, scar, arm, or armpit. Other common complaints include numbness, shooting or pricking pain, or unbearable itching.

PMPS is thought to be linked to damage done to the nerves in the armpit and chest during surgery. But the causes are not known. Because major surgeries are less often used to treat breast cancer today, PMPS is becoming less of a problem.

It is important to talk to your doctor about any pain you are having. PMPS can cause you to not use your arm the way you should and over time you could lose the ability to use it normally.

PMPS can be treated. Opioids or narcotics are medicines commonly used to treat pain, but they may not work well for nerve pain. But there are medicines and treatments that do work for this kind of pain. Talk to your doctor to get the pain control you need.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.