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Aug 9, 2007 10:42AM
This article was in one of my nursing journals and maybe an easier read than what I found on the net yesterday.
Sas WHAT IS PHANTOM PAIN?
Pain experienced after Mastectomy <!--color-->
Occurs in 25-55% of women after mastectomy.
If it is going to occur, it usually begins early, within the first month after mastectomy More common in younger women, those who have had children, and in those who had premenstrual breast tension prior to mastectomy. Its occurrence is not related to a history of breast feeding, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or breast prostheses. WHAT DOES PHANTOM PAIN FEEL LIKE
Initially it resembles clothes rubbing a sunburn or "sore nipples" like when one first breast feeds. Sharp shooting pains may also occur.
LATER ON IT CAN BE MORE OF AN ITCHY FEELING OR A GRIPPING DISCOMOFRT. <!--color-->
Early on it usually feels like it is coming from the nipple area even though the nipple is no longer present. Later it seems to be over the whole "breast. It is intermittent, rarely constant. Usually it occurs spontaneously, but may be triggered. Common triggers include anything rubbing the incision (early on), vigorous exercise, hot flashes, sexual arousal, menstruation, and changes in weather.
Similar sensations may occur simultaneously in the non-operated breast, or on both sides at the time of a second mastectomy. HOW LONG DOES IT LAST?
Usually phantom pain decreases in intensity and frequency over weeks to months. It may be replaced by phantom sensation, a tingly sensation and/or the feeling that the breast is still present. Some women only have phantom sensation, never phantom pain.
After 1-6 years, 10-15% of mastectomy patients will still experience some phantom pain. The frequency varies from a few times a year to more than once a day (uncommon). Another 10-15% will have only phantom sensation, the feeling that the breast is still present. WHAT CAN BE DONE FOR PHANTOM PAIN?
Phantom pain can be treated with capsaicin, a non-prescription cream found in the arthritis section of the drug store. 85% good to excellent response. Cost ~$10 per tube. first few applications. It may make the phantom pain more frequent for the first few days. It takes 2-4 weeks to get maximal effect. Check with your doctor to be sure your incision is healing adequately before starting.