March 2013

Some Breast Cancer Treatments Linked To Joint Pain

Some treatments for breast cancer may increase the likelihood of aches, pain, and stiffness in muscles and joints, a study reported.

In breast cancer, some cells begin growing abnormally. The cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells and may spread through the breast tissue to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body (metastasize). The most common type of breast cancer begins in the milk-producing ducts, but cancer may also occur in the lobules or in other breast tissue.

Scientists set out to compare the prevalence of symptoms of aches and pains in breast cancer patients and in healthy women of a similar age. They looked at data from 274 women attending breast cancer follow-up clinics and 274 women attending breast cancer screening clinics. The participants ranged in age from 30 to 86. Those with breast cancer were receiving adjuvant treatments to keep the cancer from coming back. The adjuvant treatments included chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and hormone therapy.

About 62 percent of women with breast cancer reported that they currently experienced pain, compared to 53 percent without the disease. Factors that significantly predicted pain included age, arthritis, and cancer. For those with cancer, significant predictors of pain were age and arthritis, as well as treatment with taxane chemotherapy, aromatase inhibitors, and tamoxifen. Quality of life was found to be significantly worse for breast cancer patients compared to healthy subjects. Within the women with breast cancer, quality of life was significantly worse in those who experienced pain.

The researchers concluded that some adjuvant treatments may predict joint pain, which may impact the quality of life many years after surviving breast cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American women. In the United States, it is estimated that 12% of American women will develop the disease and 3.5% will die from it.

Light therapy, strontium, and vitamin A are three integrative therapies that are supported by strong scientific evidence for use in breast cancer and related therapies. There is good scientific evidence suggesting that psychotherapy and meditation may help improve quality of life in cancer patients.

For more information about breast cancer, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions Database.


  1. Fenlon D, Addington-Hall JM, O'Callaghan AC, et al. A Survey of Joint and Muscle Aches, Pain, and Stiffness Comparing Women With and Without Breast Cancer. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2013 Mar 15. pii: S0885-3924(13)00105-X. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2012.10.282. 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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