Q. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2010. I received 6 rounds of chemotherapy, and I still experience severe knee pain. Is this pain related to the chemotherapy and when will it end?
It is not uncommon for people who have undergone chemotherapy and other cancer treatments to experience long-term side effects. For example, certain breast cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and hormonal treatments may contribute to bone loss, which could cause knee pain (view our bone health resources). Your body’s reaction to cancer treatment depends on factors such as treatment length, dosage prescribed, and your personal health history. Most side effects are temporary, but some can last for some time after treatment is over.
It is important to discuss your symptoms with your medical team so you can find some relief. Are they aware of your knee pain? I would strongly encourage you to tell your doctor about your concerns if you haven’t already. He or she is in the best position to investigate whether your pain is chemo-related. In the event that your doctor is not accessible, your nurses and oncology social workers are great resources. Nurses have a wide range of skills and are usually in charge of implementing the plan of care your doctor has set up for you. They are trained to administer medication, monitor side effects, and educate you on the medications you are receiving. Oncology social workers are professionally trained to counsel people affected by cancer and help them access practical assistance. They can also act as a liaison between you and members of your medical team. CancerCare offers a free podcast with tips to help you plan for your post-treatment medical appointments, Communicating With Your Health Care Team After Treatment: Making the Most of Your Visit.
Finally, many people find it helpful to keep a record of side effects to bring to your next appointment. You can create a daily journal that details information such as when the pain occurred and for how long, how strong was the discomfort/pain using a scale of 1-10, and how the side effect impacts your daily activities. Learn more about our resources on coping with pain.