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There are many reasons a person may have pain related to breast cancer. For example, the pain may be caused by the tumor pressing against nerves or bones (or other organs near the breast). It may also be the result of treatment. In most cases, the pain can be managed using pain medications or alternative treatments (such as massage or acupuncture). The key to minimizing or eliminating your pain is to communicate clearly with your healthcare team about the pain you're experiencing.

An Overview of Breast Cancer Pain

People with breast cancer may experience pain. Whether you have pain (and the amount of pain you have) may depend on the type of breast cancer, the stage (extent) of the disease, and your pain threshold (tolerance for pain).
For people with breast cancer, pain can be caused by a number of things, including:
  • A tumor that is pressing against nerves or bones, or other organs near the breast
  • Breast cancer treatment
  • Things not related to the cancer, such as headaches or muscle pain.

Options for Reducing Pain

The patient's doctor or a specialist in pain control can relieve or reduce the pain from breast cancer in several ways, which include:
  • Pain medicine
  • Alternative treatments
  • Radiation
  • A nerve block.


For most people, medicine and alternative treatments are effective for reducing breast cancer pain.

Pain Medicine
Medicines can often relieve pain from breast cancer. Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist for advice before you take any medicine for pain. Medicines are safe when they are used properly. You can buy some effective pain relievers without a prescription or doctor's order. These medicines are referred to as nonprescription or over-the-counter pain relievers. For other medications, a prescription from your doctor is necessary.
Although these medicines may make people drowsy and constipated, resting and taking laxatives can help. Also, many people worry that they will become addicted to pain medicine; however, this rarely occurs.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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