You’d think by this point (over 2 years later) in time my doctors would stop suggesting mental causes for physical aches and pains, but, sadly, that is just not the case. Left to “doctor” myself, then, I spend an average of 5 hours a week researching chronic pain, postmastectomy pain, nerve damage and “postmastectomy reconstruction sydrome” or PMRS, which is a new label that encompasses a world of complications that result from breast reconstructive surgery.
An article that I came across yesterday explains some of these phenomenon well, and gives a name to my mind-numbing itching/burning/pain on the right side of my body: intercostal brachial neuralgia. Are there treatment options? Nah, not really. Could it be cured? Not likely… but, at least it has a name. The article, “Relieving Pain and Other Symptoms after Breast Cancer Surgery” describes intercostal brachial neuralgia as a condition that develops after involvement of the intercostobrachial nerve [a nerve in the armpit], and can “be extremely painful with burning, tingling, and other unpleasant neuropathic sensations.” Me. To. A. T.
Imagine my surprise, however, when I read this paragraph: “How is postmastectomy reconstruction syndrome diagnosed? A rehabilitation physician [also called a physiatrist] with experience treating the condition can usually make a diagnosis by reviewing your medical history and performing a basic physical exam. Sometimes additional assessment, such as electromyography to detect abnormal nerve and muscle function, is needed. Imaging such as MRI of the cervical spine, brachial plexus, or shoulder is also helpful in certain situations.” I could have a formal diagnosis?! There are ways to confirm that these pain issues stem from my surgery?! There are people with EXPERIENCE involved?! Sign me up.
*searches the internet for a rehabilitation physician*