Do You Have Phantom Breast Syndrome?

After I had both breasts removed because of cancer, I got implants. Nobody tells you the "fun" they can be!

My right implant feels as warm as the rest of my skin. My left implant, on the other hand, is ICE COLD. That's a product of the surgeon not doing a great job with the reconstruction. It's not that big of a deal—just an irritant if I allow myself to think about it.

I've had capsular contracture FOUR TIMES. As a layman, I would tell you that my body tried to reject an implant each time by building a "capsule" around it. It then started to tighten down in it, thinking it was an invader. (Of course, it WAS).

The surgery to correct contracture is really simple: a smile incision beneath the implant; the implant and capsule removed or scored; new implant slid in; incision closed. That's it. A couple of hours in outpatient surgery, start to finish. My surgeons and I have joked about them putting a ZIPPER in because I've had contracture so many times over the last decade! (Funny/not funny).

And then there is PHANTOM ITCH. Today I worked out, got pretty hot and sweat a lot. I should have known better. The itching has nothing to do with the skin—the itching is DEEP under the skin. Maybe even UNDER the implant. It's about six hours later, and my Phantom Itch is STILL making me NUTS. I even took an Allegra to see if the antihistamine would help. I'm writing this article to distract myself (and hopefully to let you know you're not alone!)

Phantom Itch is part of something called, "Post-Mastectomy Pain Syndrome" or "Phantom Breast Syndrome." This article in Cure Magazine says, "It includes symptoms such as swelling of the chest wall, sensitivity to touch, severe itching, restricted range of motion, axillary web syndrome (also called cording, in which ropelike tissue structures form under the skin of the arms) and breast tightness. These symptoms, which can range from mildly annoying to severely restricting, might not be present immediately after surgery but may appear several months to several years later." Oh goody. You might be interested in reading the symptoms that the author of the article had. 

The NIH says that Phantom Breast Syndrome may occur in 30-80% of women who have a mastectomy!

Personally, my itch issue has become less frequent over the years, but it severely flares up when my chest gets hot—when I take a hot bath and soak my foobs (fake boobs, for those who aren't in The Club), or when I work out and sweat, like today. I can't do too much about it but grin and bear it. And poke—poke—POKE. Thanks, Breast Cancer. has a good article that lets us know that itching may be tied to chemo, rads, surgery, OR hormone blockers! What the heck? I'm way, way past that, over a decade out from the diagnosis. And I haven't taken a blocker since Year 5. But at least their article has a list of ways to alleviate itching. Unfortunately, that list is for skin itching—NOT the deep itching that you JUST. CAN'T. SCRATCH. 

Breast cancer—the gift that keeps on giving. 

Shared with love by Jan James, Hope After Breast Cancer

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