Breast & under arm pain

Updated February 21, 2017

A breast cancer diagnosis can often mean pain and tenderness in the breast and underarm area and these symptoms can persist after treatment or surgery. While breast pain is expected, the underarm region can be very sensitive as well, but there are several treatment options available.


After undergoing radiation treatment, some patients may experience extreme tenderness in the soft tissue of the breast and the nerves under the arm may be affected as well. The pain can last for a while, so medications like Lidocaine patches may be helpful.

Acute Underarm Pain

Immediately after surgery, the pain under the arm will be acute, since the area that was touched during surgery will be tender. The pain is mainly due to the drains that are inserted into the area to reduce fluid build-up; medications like oxycodone may help to relieve this.

Acute Breast Pain

Breast pain can make it difficult to move after surgery and some patients even feel extreme numbness in the area. Certain exercises using special medical pillows and balls can help patients to regain strength.

Some Possible Treatments

Some antidepressants and antiseizure medications like desipramine or phenytoin can reduce nerve damage and relieve pain after surgery. These medications can also help to treat some of the anxiety or depression that some patients feel after breast cancer treatment.

Other Symptoms

While pain and numbness under the arms and in the breasts is common, patients should also watch to make sure they are not developing a fever, as this usually indicates an infection. Weeks after the surgery some patients may feel a burning sensation; this should be treated right away since it may be a sign of permanent nerve damage.

bibliography-icon icon for annotation tool Cite this Article

About the Author

Tamiya King has been writing for over a decade, particularly in the areas of poetry and short stories. She also has extensive experience writing SEO and alternative health articles, and has written published interviews and other pieces for the "Atlanta Tribune" and Jolt Marketing. She possesses a Bachelor of Arts in English and is currently pursuing higher education to become a creative writing professor.