Fibromyalgia and Breast Pain: Is It Linked To A Higher Risk On Breast Cancer?

What does the evidence say about fibromyalgia and breast pain links to breast cancer? Read on to find out.

Women with breast pain

Several health conditions can be linked to different symptoms and other risk factors. The health condition known as liver cirrhosis can have symptoms such as jaundice and an enlarged liver. On the other hand, those who are undergoing menopause may have symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. One critical medical condition is, of course, breast cancer. Cancers are generally considered as a severe form of the disease. That is due to its mortality rates and their adverse effects on the quality of life of patients. But is Fibromyalgia, along with the accompanying breast pain, a possible breast cancer risk? In this article, we look at what Fibromyalgia is and what the evidence says about its links to breast cancer. Read on to find out more!

Fibromyalgia and Breast Pain: A Brief Backgrounder

A condition that is considered long term or chronic, Fibromyalgia can lead to various symptoms such as cognitive and sleep disturbances, general fatigue, areas in the body that are tender, and muscle and bone pain. Fibromyalgia, as a health condition, can be challenging even for medical professionals. That is because it can cause symptoms that are similar overlap with other health conditions. Also, there are no specific diagnostic tests that can help determine if these symptoms are indeed caused by Fibromyalgia. As such, the said condition can often be misdiagnosed.  

Some medical experts have questioned in the past whether fibromyalgia is a real health condition. At present, though, fibromyalgia is easier to understand and manage which can also lead to enhanced wellness and better quality of life for patients. 

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

This medical condition can lead to regions of pain, and these regions may be overlapping with areas in the human body that are called tender points or trigger points. The pain experienced in the said trigger points can be described as a type of ache that is dull and consistent. The patient’s medical expert will confirm the diagnosis of the health condition if the patient has musculoskeletal pain in four (4) out of the five (5) identified points as established by the criteria in fibromyalgia diagnosis revised and released in 2016.

The protocol for this diagnosis is referred to as multisite pain and is in contrast with fibromyalgia’s previous 1990 protocol of being diagnosed as widespread pain that is chronic. The diagnostic process will also focus on how severe the pain is, and where the pain is experienced versus the previous protocol’s diagnosis of the duration of pain. Some of the other fibromyalgia symptoms are interstitial cysts and other problems with the bladder, dry eyes, lower belly ache, trouble paying attention or staying focused, anxiety, depression, headaches, sleep that is nonrestorative (sleeping for long hours without feeling relaxed or restored), sleep problems, and fatigue. 

The nerves and the brain may overreact or misinterpret pain that is average or regular for patients with fibromyalgia. It can be due to imbalances in brain chemicals or dorsal root ganglion abnormality, which can lead to the sensitization of the brain in terms of central pain. This health condition has also been known, to affect the individual’s energy levels and emotions.

What is Fibromyalgia Fog?

Fibromyalgia Fog- also referred to as brain fog or fibro fog, is a word that refers to the fuzzy feeling patients with fibromyalgia experience. Some of the other signs of fibromyalgia fog include trouble staying alert, difficulty maintaining concentration, and lapses in memory. A study done in 2015 noted that some individuals find the fuzzy feeling from Fibro Fog more distressing than the pain the said condition brings.

Women and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Women with fibromyalgia can have symptoms that have increased severity compared to men. Women can experience pain that is more widespread, symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and more frequent fatigue in the morning compared to their male counterparts. Painful periods can also become more common for women with fibromyalgia. 

During the 2016 revision of fibromyalgia criteria, though, more males were given fibromyalgia diagnosis, which can lead to a reduction in the degree of how pain is distinguished between women and men. Further studies are needed to firmly establish the said distinctions of pain.

Also, women who are transitioning to menopause can have worse symptoms of fibromyalgia, compared to females who are still pre-menopause.

Men and Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia can also happen to male individuals, but most of them go undiagnosed for many years as the said condition is usually thought of as an illness for women. As stated earlier, though, after the 2016 revision, more and more men are being given the diagnosis for fibromyalgia. Men also experience severe emotional and painful symptoms if they are affected by fibromyalgia. The aforementioned medical condition can adversely affect their relationships, careers, and lives based on a study conducted by the American Journal of Public Health in 2018.

The Trigger Points of Fibromyalgia

Previously, people who experienced fibromyalgia were considered as having widespread pain. However, with a better understanding of the said condition, several pain trigger points have been identified, which include the outer elbows, knees, hips, upper chest, tops of the shoulders, and the back portion of the head.

The Link Between Fibromyalgia and Breast Cancer

According to Fibromyalgia expert Dr. Lawrence Leventhal, based on the literature and available data, there is no clear link between patients reporting pain from fibromyalgia to developing any sort of cancer or the from dying earlier from the aforementioned type of cancer. However, the same expert noted that patients suffering from cancer of the breast along with painful bouts of fibromyalgia will most certainly experience reduced quality of life and adversely impacted health.

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