It is not uncommon for women with lumpectomy and radiation to have pain in
that breast and ribs for years. I have experienced this and have heard
anecdotal reports of this for years. Radiation can thicken the periosteum
(through which the nerve and blood supply goes to the bones) around the ribs
causing burning or pain. Also the breast itself becomes denser and is far
more tender or sensitive after radiation for some women.
There is also what I call the "cattle prod effect" where there is a sudden
almost electrical shock of stabbing pain, at random it seems, in the breast,
down the arm, or side or ribs. Again apparently due to the above. My
doctors at the City of Hope were hoping to write an article about this as it
seems to be under-reported or probably minimized or discounted. I think it
varies and depends also on the extent of the lumpectomy-drains-axillary node
dissection incisions and scarring. My doctor put me on ibuprofen 800mg three
times a day which helped alot when I went through this. Also swimming and very
light weights helped to strengthen and build capillaries in the upper body as
well as help with relaxation and breathing.
I had a lumpectomy with lymph node dissection, one drain and radiation 8 and
1/2 years ago and felt this kind of tenderness and pain moderately and
sometimes severely for the first 3 years and then it calmed down and
diminished as the years went on, but not entirely. My sister had the exact
same surgery 3 years ago and she is still reporting severe pains at times,
worrying if it is bone mets, etc.
I hope your friend had a base-line bone scan just to rule out any mets to
And I hope a study of these after-effects find their way into the literature
soon so that women can know what to expect should they have similar symptoms.
Hope this helps. You can give her my number. (626)3034288