Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Six years Later..... Pain after Breast Cancer: Costocondritis

After settling in with all the "new normals" of being a post-cancer patient and the hitches that come with that, there always seems to be something that creeps up.  In the last couple of years, I have stayed rather quiet for several reasons, but mostly because I was tired and just didn't have the energy to keep up with TNBC or anything else "cancer". :(  Maybe I was just trying to forget? But one never forgets....

Since those days, I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, osteopenia/osteoporosis, depression, excessive back pain (from a car crash way back when), issues from being hit by a truck during chemo (fun).....and now, costochondritis.

Here is the low down on costochondritis.   After breast cancer pain seems to be part of the normal every day activities and doctors often say "give it more time".  Well, in my case, I have done quite well...considering I am now 7 years out from diagnosis and 5 years out from the last of all treatments and reconstruction! Unfortunately, a few months back I had an incident where my ribs hurt.  It wasn't a crazy painful hurt, but one where I felt like I had bruised my ribs, and if I turned the wrong way or bumped them, it hurt.  Now, two weeks ago, I started getting this unbelievable pain in my ribs and chest. It almost feels like someone is stabbing me from the inside out or even a burning pain. While sometimes it lasts for just a few minutes, it can also last for several minutes leaving me shaken or waking me from a full sleep. 
Since this diagnosis, I have done a little more research and understand the cartilage between the ribs is inflamed. It has occurred because of the mastectomy in 2009.  I, like others, worry as the pain generated is in the area of where my multifocal tumors were situated.”

Therapydotcom states that "Costocondritis is inflammation of the cartilage that joins the ribs to the breastbone (called costal cartilages). Also known as anterior chest wall pain, costosternal syndrome or parasternal chondrodynia, it causes pain in the chest wall around the breastbone (or sternum) and sometimes is severe.
Costochondritis is a common problem in women who have been affected by breast cancer and acts up in a similar way to arthritis. The pain may be mild to severe with tenderness over the anterior chest and may radiate to the back, shoulders, stomach or arms. Pain is often aggravated with coughing, lifting, straining, sneezing and deep breathing. Pain can be constant or intermittent and can last for several days to multiple months/years."  (Oh joy!)
Apparently once you get it, it can flare up at any time and you have to be cautious with over-working your arms with things like lifting, painting and sweeping. Sometimes the pain can extend to the shoulder or arm on the involved side.  As for me, mine radiates from my sternum to the right all the way around my back and involves my right implant also.  Honestly, it hurts to a point it feels like my implant is going to fall off - even though I know otherwise.
Therapydotcom goes on to say "When costochondritis is accompanied by swelling of the areas surrounding the cartilage, the condition is called Tietze syndrome which causes localized musculoskeletal pain. In Tietze syndrome, the swollen area of the inflamed cartilage may be tender to the touch, and the skin overlying the cartilage may be reddened".
My doctor has recommended a combination of rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medications (Ibuprofen), and stretches. In reading up, some cases of severe pain, cortisone injections or surgery have been utilized- with mixed results. I myself would defer on that and stick to stretching exercises as they have shown to be beneficial. 
So, ladies, my recommendation is to keep on keeping on.  Keep your chin up, keep stretching, keep exercising, keep kicking cancer's axx.....Much love. 


  1. My mother has that. And then she broke ribs coughing and was in awful pain. Ask your doctor for Butrans pain patches. They work wonders for her. I also have them for my RA/fibromyalgia pain. Costochodritis sucks - but its not cancer!!!

  2. Thanks for the information on that Caroline! I will surely look into the Butrans patches. And hallelujah to the no cancer!! Well...not so much for my sister...another story I will follow up on shortly. Take care!!

  3. Thank you for this helpful information. Best-