After Radiation, Mastectomy and Reconstruction, I’m Having Extreme Back Pain…Solutions?

This week, Dr. James Craigie of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your questions.

Q:  About 6 years ago, I had a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. The plastic surgeon took one muscle from each side of my back to reconstruct each breast. Now I am experiencing extreme back pain on the right side. This is the side where the tumor was. This was a second occurrence.

In 1993, I had a lumpectomy with chemo and radiation to this right breast/side. The extreme pain feels like it is muscular in nature on the right side. Is this normal and something I just have to live with, or might there be some other treatment for muscle pain? Should I have it checked out for a possible disc problem causing the radiating pain in my back? Should I check out physical therapy or is it too late for this therapy? I am at a loss and hate enduring this constant pain.

A: Thank you for your question, I am sorry you are experiencing pain.

When the pain first developed and exactly where it is located could help determine what the cause is and how to treat it. If it is your back in the area where your back muscle was removed it could possibly be related to your spine discs or from your body compensating for not having the muscle. If you have an implant and the discomfort is in the breast area it is possible that scarring around the implant is the cause.  Most importantly you should let your plastic surgeon,  breast surgeon and oncologist know so they determine the cause and treatment.

Your oncologist should determine if you need any special scans or tests with regard to your breast cancer history and your plastic surgeon can determine if it has to do with the reconstruction and if there is a fix.


Q: I had nipple reconstruction a month ago. After a summer with not having to wear a bra, I’m now having remorse that I didn’t go for 3-D tattoos. Two questions:

Can one have the reconstructed nipples removed?

Is there a way to flatten the nipples over time?

I understand that some nipples flatten naturally but others don’t. I wish I had thought all this through the way I did for every other decision I made during the breast cancer journey. Is there any thing else you would suggest for someone with buyer’s remorse regarding nipple reconstruction? 

A: Thank you for your question.

I suggest you ask your surgeon as it may depend on how the reconstruction was done. Otherwise I would also expect over time the nipple will flatten. It takes about 9 months. It can always be made smaller easily in the office with only numbing medicine.

Dr. James Craigie

Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction


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