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Sharp Shooting Severe Pain Feels Like I am being Stabbed

LisaBaker Member Posts: 9
edited January 2018 in Pain

Hi.  I am wondering if anyone else who is 6 months or more post-surgery feels sharp shooting pain in the breast or underarm area.  I had a lumpectomy October 31, 2011 and a revision to the surgery in mid-December.  I had 25 nodes removed and 14 of them had cancer.  I went through chemo from January through April and finished radiation in mid June.

I keep getting these sharp pains in different places in the breast that was operated on.  Sometimes it's around the nipple area, sometimes around the scar area.  The pain seems to re-occur in the same place for a while and then moves to a new spot.  It is a very sharp intensive pain that feels like I am being stabbed.  It lasts for about 30 seconds to a minute and then subsides.

I have tried to discuss with both my radiologist and my oncologist.  Both of them tell me that this is normal.  I am finding it hard to believe that it is normal to suddenly feel like I am being stabbed.  How do I know what is normal and when it is something to be concerned about.  My radiologist suggests I take a tylenol or ibuprofen.  I don't want to take anything for a pain that doesn't last.  I just want to make sure I don't have to worry that the cancer is back.

This is different from the pain/numbness I experience in the arm and breast area that is constant.  I can deal with that.  This is something that will just occur suddenly and then subsides.  

Has anyone else experienced this?



  • ruthbru
    ruthbru Member Posts: 46,718

    It's the nerves growing back. It gets better over time, although I still experience an occasional 'zing'.

  • Cynthia1962
    Cynthia1962 Member Posts: 236

    I agree with ruthbru, it's the nerves regenerating.  It does get less painful over time and will eventually taper off. 

  • LisaBaker
    LisaBaker Member Posts: 9

    What a relief to hear that I am not alone.  I know that the numbness and constant pain in my arm and underarm is normal, but OMG the stabbing pain has been horrible.  I hate to complain.  I was at Stage 3c with no symptoms.  I had a mammogram 6 months prior to my finding the lump (which I found accidentally due to a chigger bite) and from that moment on my world was turned upside down and the ground was pulled out from underneath me.  I am dealing with a lot of side effects from the chemo, but I am so glad to be alive and here.  3 months before I found the lump, my brother passed away from cancer and I have been caring for my father who has Stage 4 lung cancer and has managed to hang on for 3 years despite being told he only has 6 months to live. To say that I have been trying to keep fear from invading my mind is an understatement.  To hear that others have experienced the sharp pains and it is a part of the healing puts my mind at rest.

    My point is this . . . I am grateful to be alive.  I'm grateful for the chemo and I believe it has kept me here and I believe that I will be here for quite some time.  Knowing that the pains are just part of dealing with healing, I'm okay with that and I can handle it.  

    Thanks for your feedback to everyone who responds!  

    God be with all of us!

    Lisa Baker

  • Cynthia1962
    Cynthia1962 Member Posts: 236

    Glad I could help, Lisa!  Hang in there, it does get better.  I had a lot of aches and pains of all kinds that first year after treatment.  Most of it was centered around my surgery area.  Then, Tamoxifen had it's own side effects.  Fun fun... but like you say, if you know why, it's easier to handle.  I hope things improve for you quickly!


  • ruthbru
    ruthbru Member Posts: 46,718
    It was my GP, not the oncology people, who told me what the pain was from. Sometimes a general doctor can be of more help than a specialist because they know the whole body instead of just their one area. As it's good if the nerves do grow back, so is something to just put up with.....although I know at first my DH raised his eyebrows if sometimes I was  just sitting there and all of the suddened start hopping around yelling, "Ouch, Youch, Ouch, Ouch, Ouch!" Tongue out
  • barbiecorn
    barbiecorn Member Posts: 86

    I am almost 6 months post-BMX - Still have pain,tenderness, soreness and achiness all over the area and under my arms...I think it is going to take time, a long time for this to completely go away, if ever.

  • policewife84
    policewife84 Member Posts: 86

    Dear Lisa,

    I have undergone chemo, a bilateral mastectomy, radiation, and SGAP reconstruction. I have been in remission 2 years (this past May,) and will be 2 years out from radiation on August 9th. I still have those excruciating, shooting, stabbing pains periodically. In December, I went in for a follow up with my breast surgeon, and I was explaining the pain to him - he also said it was nerve regeneration, and he recommended a breast MRI just to make sure all was well, and it was.:) As the other poster said, while it is painful and bothersome, it should get better with time. I also had a follow up with my radiation oncologist in December, and she also said nerve regeneration. I follow up with my oncologist every 8 weeks and my reconstructive surgeon every 6 months, and they are all in agreement that it will just take time. I know for me, I get really impatient with myself, as I am very anxious to get back to "normal". My reconstructive surgeon explained it to me this way: He said that while I am healing on the outside, scars are fading, skin is no longer burned, breasts are even and full, I have a lot of healing left to do on the inside! Our bodies take a beating, and it takes a long time to recover. I guess that explains while I feel 84, instead of 34!:) Take care!



  • LisaBaker
    LisaBaker Member Posts: 9


    Thanks for replying.  Welcome to our new "normal"!  Are you really only 34?  Wow!  You have been through a lot by now.  I know the feeling about being impatient.  I want to get my life back but am so frustrated at times because there are just things about this situation that are simply out of my control.  Those are the days I just turn everything over to God and trust Him to get me through it.


  • cinnamonsmiles
    cinnamonsmiles Member Posts: 67

    i am 18 months out from my BMX with node dissection and I STILL get them. Sometimes I feel like I am being stung by a wasp. Last summer when I got my worst one ever, I was laying on the couch,went screaming out the door to get my boyfriend because I was SURE that I got stung! Turns out it was just those darn nerves.

    I also have severe neuropathy from the rib cage up on the torso and back of the upper arms, some spots are worse than others from the node dissection.

    There are medications to deal with the nerve damage pain. From what I read, and my own experience, most of the them have some loopy side effects.If you can deal with the pain, that's good. But if it is unbearable or so painful it interferes with your day to day activities, then it might be good to discuss it with your doctors.

    I,too, didn't know what was normal and what wasn't when I had my BMX. I had NO IDEA that the amount of pain I was in was NOT normal and took me months to figure it out while reading these boards!!! 

  • policewife84
    policewife84 Member Posts: 86


    I am one of the lucky women to get diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 31. :) It's all good though - God has walked me through this entire journey, and I know that this is all part of his divine plan! I was diagnosed 6 months after I got married. It wasn't quite the newlywed year that I had imagined, but it has brought my husband and I so, so, close together, and I know that whatever comes our way, we're fireproof. It is definitely a life changing event, that is for sure! Take care and God bless!!



  • Califgirl12
    Califgirl12 Member Posts: 2

    Hello Ladies

    I too have experienced very painful sharp stabs all over my treated breast. It comes and goes at all hours of the day. I imagine Tylenol would help but I would have to take it 24/7 and I don't want to do that. I am just toughing it out and occasional have to "grab myself" in really doesn't but it's better than yelping out loud!

  • proudtospin
    proudtospin Member Posts: 4,671

    I have started to get a sharp pain in my rib, actually thoought i had a broken rib

    not broken but now thinking it is from my lymphodemia which is in the trunk area, need to ask my doc at next visit, pain comes and goes but very sharp when it comes

    directly after my surgery, I would get a dull pain in the boob after excercising but that passed

  • chatter99
    chatter99 Member Posts: 20

    I really hope everyone is right and this is just nerve pain. However, I had similar pain which started one year after radiation tx. (Mastectomy in 2004, reoccurence in 2008 - surgery/radiation). At first it was occasional, usually in the middle of the night and lasted about 20 minutes - hot, stabbing pain in my underarm, extremely painful. My oncologist explained it was nerve pain and suggested Advil for pain relief, also heat application and possibly acupuncture. Over time, the frequency increased and started to also happen during the day. At the beginning of June 2012, I was suddenly in severe pain and couldn't move my left arm up to shoulder height. There was swelling under the arm, too. I was also experiencing a lot of gastric upset (not sure if related). My GP provided opiods for pain relief and eventually diagnosed as frozen shoulder, with a referral to physiotherapy. Luckily, my regularly scheduled oncology appt. occurred just before I scheduled phsyio. My oncologist immediately ordered a bone scan and a CT scan. Within a week, I was told that my breast cancer had spread to my bones. I am now scheduled for appropriate treatment. 

  • bnpete
    bnpete Member Posts: 1

    As weird as it seems to connect the two I have had two c-sect. The first no pain except a week post op. But the second, same intence stabbing pains. Felt horrible the kind of pain that takes your breath away. They had cut threw one major nerve. A little while and it stopped, and now it is kinda numb, which is way better than stabbing pain. It will get better, and it is normal. Nerves are supposed to send pain signals so when they are severed they send for a while afterwards. I hope the pain subsides quickly, and I wish you the very best!

  • I am writing on behalf of my 91-year-old mother who had a masectomy when she was 82. She told me yesterday that about once a year she has shooting pains that feel like she is being stabbed. They last about 3 days. Have any of you readers heard of such a thing? I read the posts that said the pain gets better over time, but the time frames were all just a couple of years.  Any suggestions, treatment, or reasons why this keeps happening would be so appreciated.

  • proudtospin
    proudtospin Member Posts: 4,671

    I get an occasional sharp pain, 4 years out of treatment but I have blamed it on my lymphedemia

    think that possible?

    mine comes and goes and comes if I over do stuff with that tonight when I was putting pots away!  I was using the bad no not good idea!

  • cfdr
    cfdr Member Posts: 308

    I got the "zings" as my rad onc called them, during and for a few months after radiation. Recently, as well as for a while last spring, I've started getting pains that are not the unpredictable zings, but are in distinct places and aggravated in distinct ways, similar to a pulled muscle. For instance if I lie on my back I get a terrible pain in my outer ribs, not far from the scar. I've started doing my lymphdema self-massage and wearing my compression bra again, thinking maybe it's from lymphedema. But I'm not convinced. Maybe nerves regenerating? Or a neuroma in the scar tissue? Or maybe really just a pulled muscle in a weird place? It also hurts to press on my lower ribs...feels like they are bruised. Had an x-ray last spring to confirm no mets or fracture, pain went away and came back for no reason that I can fathom. Next onc visit is not until December, I'm so sick of medical appointments I'll probably just live with it until then.

  • gutsy
    gutsy Member Posts: 26

    I am 18 mths past mastectomy and I get pain under my surgery scars and now I have these pains radiating out to my shoulder from that area. Every couple of weeks there seems to be a different painful area on my surgery side. I find myself getting all stressed each time, and just hoping and hoping it will subside. Is this the new normal

  • jennsmc
    jennsmc Member Posts: 1

    Thanks for your posts ladies!  I am three weeks post-op.  I was driving this afternoon and all of a sudden felt like I was being stabbed.  I had to pull over and I was holding my breast and crying.  I had some zingers after my biopsy, but not the kind of pain I felt today.  I'll mention the pain to my doctor tomorrow, but its reassuring to hear that its most likely normal.

  • Lily55
    Lily55 Member Posts: 1,748

    I have the same pains and in my underarm area they can take my breath away - they are intermittent.....weird feeling like you still have a breast and nipple when there is nothing there...........

  • New-girl
    New-girl Member Posts: 80

    I used to get them so bad that I was taking meds to control it.  It is just once in awhile now but ohhhh they can hit hard.  My question is....I sometimes get them right dead center nipple.  Like at the very back of the nipple.  Sharp intense pain.  There cannot be any nerves there because they are all gone.  I have been told I will never feel anything there.  But I feel pain sometimes.  Is this phantom pain?

  • wren44
    wren44 Member Posts: 7,847

    It's probably a version of phantom pain. The nerve that went to the back of the nipple is probably firing at the place where it was cut. I had nipple pain for a while after my mx. I found a spot that could trigger it--no where near the nipple.

  • Aragwyn
    Aragwyn Member Posts: 1

    I had my mastectomy over a year ago and have just recently developed the stabbing pains in my breast area that you speak of. When it occurs it pulls me up short in whatever I am doing and I have to stand still until it subsides. This has only begun to happen in the last two weeks and I thought that maybe it was some feeling coming back into a part that has up until now had no feeling whatsoever. I am hoping it will just be a temporary thing.

  • Rockchick55
    Rockchick55 Member Posts: 1

    Thanks to all for the reassurance that I’m not alone. I started chemo on 07-Mar-2017 and finished my 16 treatments on 29-Aug-2017. Some lousy side effects for sure but I was cancer-free by the 10th chemo, praise God. I had my bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction on 26-Sep-2017 using the “Goldilocks” skin and nipple saving technique and had one lymph node removed from each underarm. Still 100% cancer-free after the operation. I have just finished my last of 30 radiation treatments 4 days ago on 29-Dec-2017. I’ve been struggling with the sharp stabbing pains, tightness and burning in both breasts since Christmas and this has become more frequent in the last week. It was so reassuring to read all these posts from ladies in the same boat as me. I also think it’s just the nerves regenerating and I am so happy that it’s happening already. I see my radiation oncologist on 09-Jan-2018 and my chemo oncologist at the end of January to start on Tamoxifen treatment. I will also see both my surgeons this month or early next month and will keep you updated if I get any further info from them about the pains. I’m so grateful to be alive and will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers. Thanks to for this forum that helps so many in a similar position. x

  • B123
    B123 Member Posts: 239

    I’m hoping too get some advice ladies. I am 6 years post BMX, effected and radiated side has always been flatter and wider with more swelling. Pins/needles on side to any touch. I always get the zings in both sides. But now after shoveling snow 3 days ago, my under arm is numb and it’s painful to my hand. My breast has sharp pains, more with movement. No redness not hot. I’m wearing a compression sleeve and chest compression. My biggest worry is I had a root canal 2 weeks ago with antibiotics to follow. Can this be why I’m having this? My effected side is slightly swollen on top part where it was before. I get zaps behind shoulder and underarm. Please tell me what to do

  • edwards750
    edwards750 Member Posts: 1,568

    We aren’t doctors but you have multiple issues going on. My advice - check it out. Your armor might be the culprit too. As for antibiotics affecting you like that don’t have a clue. What are you taking? Ask your dentist. Sounds like a drastic SE if it is the meds.