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Phantom itch

skipper54's picture
skipper54
Posts: 936
Joined: Feb 2011

I've recently developed an itch in my right breast. The problem? It isn't there anymore! Is this like the phantom pain that amputees experience? Has anyone else had this issue. It's really tough to get rid of an itch that you can't scratch. What's with this anyway? Those nerves were cut and damaged so there's no feeling there. Everh now and then though it just itches. Are the nerves repairing or it is a phantom itch? I just saw my onc 2 weeks ago and it wasn't doing it then, but I'll see my surgeon in 10 days and will check with him. In the meantime, just wondering if nayone else has had this issue.

mamolady's picture
mamolady
Posts: 796
Joined: May 2011

During rads and still now, I am getting sharp little pains on both sides that go away fairly quickly. I had bilateral mastectomy but rads only on the right. The RO said it is just the tissue getting feeling back. That may be what is happening. Still check with the surgeon.

Cindy

survivorbc09
Posts: 4376
Joined: Jun 2009

I would imagine it is just the nerve endings and everything repairing itself. I had a strange feeling for awhile. I am not sure it was like an itch, but, I certainly felt something going on.

Jan

cinnamonsmile
Posts: 1191
Joined: Dec 2010

Shortly after my BMX, I certainly experienced phantom breast pain/feelings (a breast really isn't a limb is it?). I can't remember what it was exactly, but I do remember telling my surgeon at an appt. and she nodded in agreement that is certainly can happen, and that was, indeed, what was happening with me.
I have had PMPS/neuropathy on both sides of my upper body since I woke up from surgery and have a full array of symptoms that can vary from one spot to the other. It is incredible what these damaged nerves and my brain are communticating to my conscious brain. You would think I have been beaten on a daily basis sometimes, yet, and that I am bruised, numb, etc. But yet there is nothing physically wrong with me, other than those rotten nerves and my brain communicating what they "think" is happening.
I always came in with a list of questions for my surgeon and she came to expect it. On one of my last appts, I didn't come in with a list and she said she was surprised.

TraciInLA's picture
TraciInLA
Posts: 2002
Joined: Jul 2009

Skipper,

I had lumpectomies on both sides -- on the right side, the incision was made right around the aereola (like a sideways smiley face :-), and I have no feeling in or around that nipple.

But yes, I still get itches there, try to scratch, and can't even feel myself scratching! It's strange and irritating, but doesn't happen very often or for very long, so I've never worried about it. I never thought to ask my surgeon about it, as it's no more than a weird, occasional nuisance for me.

Traci

robang13's picture
robang13
Posts: 333
Joined: Apr 2011

@Traci,
I'm so glad you said that!! I sit here at night scratching away and I can't feel it at all. Meanwhile it's still itching !! It's like scratching a body part that is asleep. It's been driving me and my hubby crazy! I had a lumpectomy also but the scar is underneath. My whole breast itches!! Glad I'm not alone.

angela

mollieb
Posts: 148
Joined: Jun 2011

Angela, six years before my mastectomy I had a lumpectomy, and I experienced the same kind of itching -- it was the scar, and as the scar tissue got softer, the itch went away. The nerves are still there, and they are reacting to what is going on in your breast.

robang13's picture
robang13
Posts: 333
Joined: Apr 2011

@mollieb
Just glad to know I'm not losing my mind!!

angela

zahalene's picture
zahalene
Posts: 680
Joined: Nov 2005

I lost one breast in 1986 and the other in 1988, both followed by chemo and rads with no recon.
I experienced the 'phantom' sensations for some time after each surgery. I found that instead of trying to 'scratch the itch' I could dis-arm (groooooooan...bad pun) the feelings by GENTLY slapping the area with the palm of my hand for several seconds. This was after healing was complete of course. After a few seconds of this stimulation of the area that was bothering me, it seemed to 'get the message' and calm down.
Now, after all these years, I seldom get these feelings any more. It just seems to take quite a long time for all the nerves to get used to the new 'normal' and stop getting the 'jitters'.
Good luck and God bless you all. As of July 3, I am officially a 25 year BC survivor. I hope and pray the same for each and every one of you.

poplolly's picture
poplolly
Posts: 346
Joined: Apr 2011

I have that too. It is very irritating. I just take my hand and rub over the area vigorously. Sometimes that helps.

Judy

mollyz's picture
mollyz
Posts: 756
Joined: Sep 2010

I'm having that problem to but i think mine is from the rads i finished in April and it itches really bad now in spots i scratch it,it's more upper chest area above the hard hit radiation area i put cortizone cream on it,my mammogram tech. told me it would do that for a while because I'm still healing from rads and by the way she is a breast cancer survivor too! MOLLYZ

Kylez's picture
Kylez
Posts: 3765
Joined: May 2009

I had it also, and, it came from rads I think.

cabbott
Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

Just before I had a mastectomy back in 2002, I read a book on amputation and found out that when surgeons cut nerves, the nerves don't seem to know they've been cut. They respond with whatever they were programmed to do, reacting with sensations of cold, pain, touch, tickle, you name it, whenever they are simulated in the future. The brain experiences the sensations in the same place in your head where that part used to have its nerves go, so you can feel the itch or whatever in the missing part. Yes, a mastectomy is a breast amputation. We just never call it that. Anyhow, nerves can be retrained to some extent. I found that gentle self massage (after the surgeon's stitches were out and he said I could start using shea butter on the scars) would cause all the nerves to fire off at once. That's good, because they have to load up on whatever chemicals cause them to work and that takes 15 minutes or more. So the massage would tickle like crazy for a minute and then I would have relief for quite awhile. After a few weeks the sensations faded away. Every once in awhile I will "feel" something, but it is no longer bothersome.

mollieb
Posts: 148
Joined: Jun 2011

Yes, I've had that itch. It is exactly like the phantom pain amputees have. I learned that some of the old nerve endings are concentrated in the "rooster tail" at the end of my scar, and sometimes, not always, I can scratch that area and get a little relief. Fortunately for me, it's an occasional, minor issue.

skipper54's picture
skipper54
Posts: 936
Joined: Feb 2011

It's good to know I'm not going nuts! Unless of course it's from teh itch. It hasn't happened often but just often enough to be annoying. Glad I've got company. I really appreciate hearing from all of you.

Alexis F's picture
Alexis F
Posts: 3602
Joined: May 2009

Yes you have company Skipper and you are not nuts. LOL Mine was just the nerve endings and everything trying to heal and I had it for a very long time. I haven't had it recently though.

Lex

Userdk
Posts: 3
Joined: Jul 2020

I was hoping to find suggestions as how to calm the itch.  My mastectomy was nearly 20 years ago (2001, my personal 9/11).  I have been having bouts of severe itching since yesterday.  The only thing that seems to help is an ice compress and pressure.  The problem with that is that I have things to do and I can't spend my day pressing on my scar.  That seems to be the only thing that gives some relief.  It is simply driving me to distraction.  Has anyone tried some type of medication, and if so, what?

Userdk
Posts: 3
Joined: Jul 2020

I have some left-over Tylenol-3 from a dental procedure. I took 2 of them and haven't been itchy for the last 2 hours.

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