If you have breast cancer, then you probably also have breast cancer pain. It’s common for people living with cancer to have pain. There are many different kinds of pain, too. Some days your pain level might be low, and other days it might be very high. It’s important to take each day one at a time and to address the pain you’re having. Here are five ways to manage breast cancer pain that you might not have thought to try.
1. Cope with insomnia
Not sleeping well or at all is not uncommon in people living with breast cancer. Because of the cancer and the treatment, you might feel like you just can’t get enough quality sleep. When you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you might notice an increase in your pain and stress levels.
Sometimes a little bit of moderate exercise can help you sleep better at night. Try taking a walk during the day and making it part of your daily routine.
Help your body and mind know that it’s time to go to sleep by sticking to a sleep schedule even if you don’t feel tired yet.
About an hour before going to sleep:
- Dim the lights in your house.
- Turn off the TV, computer or any device that emits light and noise.
- To wind down, try writing in a journal, taking a warm shower or reading a book.
- Make your home cool and inviting by turning down the AC.
- Try aromatherapy with calming scents like lavender.
- Tune out background noise with a fan or ambient sound machine.
Now, you can let yourself drift into a restful sleep.
2. Fight fatigue
Along with breast cancer pain often comes a lot of fatigue. Fatigue is the feeling of intense exhaustion, even after having a restful night’s sleep. You’re more than tired when you have fatigue, and it can be hard to find the energy to do much of anything. Like insomnia, fatigue can worsen your sensitivity to pain.
Sticking to your sleep schedule will help with fatigue. You can also try limiting the amount of naps you take during the day. While resting is fine, taking too many naps can throw off your sleep schedule at night.
You can also eat healthy and get some exercise. If you find eating enough food challenging because of treatment side effects, talk with your doctor about trying liquid forms of food, like smoothies with protein powder mixed in.
Even just 20 minutes of physical activity a day can help you manage your breast cancer pain better. Find something you really enjoy doing or give something new a try. You can also call your friends to see if anyone wants to exercise with you.
Walking, bike riding, Tai Chi and yoga are all effective forms of exercise that are also gentler on your body. Always talk with your doctor before you start or change your exercise and diet routines. And, if there’s a day that you really don’t feel well, it’s ok to take the day to rest.
3. Manage hot flashes
Hot flashes can happen at any time. If you have a hot flash, you might wonder if it is ever going to end. Managing hot flashes can help you also cope with pain better.
Common hot flash triggers include spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, tight fitting clothing and more. However, you can manage hot flashes with herbal supplements, practicing relaxation techniques and with a healthy diet.
Black cohosh is an herbal supplement that has been studied for its effectiveness in reducing hot flashes. Remember to talk with your doctor before trying black cohosh or any other treatments.
Relaxation techniques like guided imagery and mindfulness can help with hot flashes, too. When you feel a hot flash coming on, try sitting down and breathing slowly and deeply. Focus your mind on something else, like a beautiful field of flowers. You can find guided imagery on CDs to help you get started.
4. Address vaginal pain
Women with breast cancer may experience vaginal pain. To address vaginal pain, you can try a cool compress to help reduce tenderness or a warm bath in Epsom salts to relieve any itching and to reduce pain. You can repeat these comfort measures throughout the day as needed.
You can also try listening to calming music to help take your mind off the pain. Sometimes, thinking about something else can be very beneficial. If sitting up is too painful, try resting in bed in a cool room.
If you’re experiencing intense vaginal pain, it’s important to call your doctor. Your doctor knows you and your health situation well. You may need medication to help reduce your pain level.
5. Reduce breast pain
- A cold or ice pack
- A warm compress
- An Epsom salts bath in warm water
- Gentle self-massage
- Take medications as prescribed by your doctor
- Try vitamins E and B (after talking with your doctor)
Breast cancer pain can make your stress and anxiety levels increase. Make these tips part of your daily relaxation routine. When you manage your pain, you can manage stress and anxiety better, too.
If your breast cancer pain changes or worsens, call your doctor immediately. Your doctor may need to modify your treatment plan or have you come in for a visit. We hope that practicing these five ways to manage breast cancer pain helps you feel better.