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What Is Neuroma in the Breast?

Updated November 21, 2016

When a neuroma develops, abnormal growth of nerve tissue has occurred. This can happen after a woman has undergone a mastectomy for breast cancer. Postoperative pain will persist long after the breast has healed. The pain stems from the thickened nerve tissues.

Post Breast Therapy Pain Syndrome

Some women experience Post Breast Therapy Pain Syndrome, or PBTPS, after breast surgery. The pain, which is considered neuropathic, can cause oedema (swelling), numbness and pain in the chest wall, arm and shoulder on the side where surgery was performed. If this pain lasts for more than three months after surgery, it qualifies as PBTPS.

Damaged Nerves and the Outcome

Neuropathic pain is the result of damage to the nerves and can be associated with dysesthesia, which means an abnormal sense of touch, and a sensation that is unpleasant and at times painful. Women who have developed neuromas after breast surgery may also experience allodynia, which means "other pain" and is pain that result from a stimulus that normally does not cause pain.

Neuromas Develop

When sensory nerves are cut during a surgical procedure, it is possible for neuromas to develop. This results in hypersensitivity of the breast as well as pain, according to Dr. Robert A. Wascher, MD, of Cancer Supportive Care Programs.

Effects

When the sensory nerves in your skin are in the process of regenerating, sometimes an irregular or abnormal interconnection takes place between the sensory nerves and the sympathetic nerves that are found along the blood vessels and in other body structures. This causes horrible pain and hypersensitivity. Some post-operative patients can't bear to have their breasts touched and may feel pain when they move. The breast can become overly sensitive to temperature changes.

Treatments

Local anesthetics and corticosteroids can be injected into the site where the pain is occurring, and this should help relieve the pain and sensitivity. Using topical counter-irritants, such as mentholated creams or capsaicin, may help reduce your pain. Taking NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can also help. If none of this works, your doctor can excise (cut out) the neuroma.

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About the Author

Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She completed both the undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Pearce has been writing professionally for over 30 years.