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How to eliminate pain after a mastectomy or lumpectomy

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We chose to focus on Post-Mastectomy Pain Syndrome because it deserves more attention. Many women suffer from this condition despite the best pain medications. Help us spread the word and forward this message to a survivor of breast cancer who is looking for pain relief and hope.

What is postmastectomy pain syndrome?

Post-mastectomy pain syndrome, or PMPS, is pain in the area of breast surgery that occurs as a result of surgery, and continues months after surgery. It can happen after mastectomy as well as lumpectomy. The pain develops as a direct result of nerve damage that occurs during surgery. Specifically, nerves are cut and cause pain. Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to prevent this. Postmastectomy pain syndrome is not related to surgical technique. Breast surgeons must be as aggressive as possible to remove the breast tissue where there is cancer, and in doing so, cause damage to the nerves in the area.

How many women are affected?

PMPS is very common. According to the American Cancer Society, PMPS occurs in an estimated 20-30% of patients after breast cancer surgery. That means that up to one in three women suffer from chronic pain as a result of breast cancer surgery.

Who can I talk to about PMPS?

Considering the number of women affected, it’s surprising how little attention this condition receives. If you’ve been experiencing pain in your chest after breast surgery, then understanding that you’re not alone, and talking about treatment options is very important. If you’ve been part of a breast cancer support group, then you may have heard women speaking about this painful experience. This is one of the benefits of a support group. There’s so much to learn and share.

What are the treatment options?

Pain medication, including medications for neuropathy, and narcotics, do not often treat the pain successfully. There are currently no well studied treatment medication regimens available.

At Marta Long MD, we approach postmastectomy pain syndrome very differently. In addition to the patients we have successfully treated, we have loved ones who have experienced mastectomies, breast cancer, as well as PMPS, and have achieved a state of being free of pain and free of pain medication. We are passionate about helping women recover. Our treatment consists of a few sessions, and in our experience, usually less than four sessions eliminates the pain completely.

How much time will it take?

When you request a consultation to completely eliminate the PMPS related pain, Dr. Long will review your medical history completely in about 30-45 minutes, then begin treatment. The consultation will take about 1.5-2 hours, possibly more. Each additional treatment session lasts one hour for a total of approximately four.

When can I expect results?

You will feel a remarkable reduction in pain after the initial consultation. You may decide you want no further treatment after one session. If you need additional sessions, we repeat the treatment every week until the pain is completely resolved. Most patients have been completely satisfied after 3-4 sessions. When we say our patients are “completely satisfied”, we mean that you are 100% pain free.

How much will it cost?

The more extensive the pain is, or the deeper the pain is, and the more nerves are involved, then the longer the procedure takes. The treatment duration will vary depending on these factors. As a result, there is no set fee. The fee is based on the amount of time you need during the consultation. The initial consultation and subsequent treatment charges are based on time. If we can completely resolve the pain in one treatment, then that will be our goal. Treatment cost is based on time at an hourly rate. All this is done in the comfort of your home, at a time that is most convenient for you, and is available after hours and on weekends. We do not accept insurance, which allows us to spend as much with you as needed to completely address the pain.

How many treatments will I need?

Dr. Long is incredibly gentle and has a wonderful bedside manner. After the first treatment, Dr. Long will call you within 48 hours to follow up on your pain. If you are satisfied, then no further treatment is needed. If you feel you need more treatment, then a follow up is scheduled. We try to reduce the need for follow up appointments, and get you to a pain-free place as soon as possible. Instead of requiring multiple office visits, Dr. Long addresses the full scope of pain at your first appointment. Her philosophy is “why wait?” You’ve waited enough.

If you've been suffering from postmastectomy pain syndrome, please schedule a consultation with Dr. Long to discuss your situation, and begin treatment immediately.

Marta Long, MD is a primary care internist based in Irvine, California, who is the Founder of Marta Long MD, Inc, an internal medicine concierge practice providing private, attentive, and exceptional care in the comfort of home. She is Yale-educated and trained, and has been in practice since 2006.


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