Many patients going through treatment for breast cancer experience regular joint and muscle pain. One member on the breastcancer.org discussion board described the hip pain she felt during treatment as hurting “like I was wearing a lead belt.”
The problem with these types of pains is that regular over-the-counter painkillers may not help much. If the pain continues day after day, it can severely restrict a person’s regular activity, and contribute to depression and low spirits-definitely not good for healing.
If you’re going through something like this, you may want to talk to your doctor about vitamin D. A new study published just this year looked at breast cancer patients who were taking estrogen-lowering drugs to shrink their tumors, as these drugs can cause pain and stiffness in the hands, wrists, knees, hips, lower back, shoulders and feet. In fact, about half the patients taking these drugs (called aromatase inhibitors) experience these difficult side effects, and they can become so painful that the patient refuses to take the drug anymore.
Scientists recruited 60 patients who were taking anastrazole (brand name Arimidex) and were experiencing joint pain, and gave half of them the recommended daily dose of vitamin D (400 IU) plus a high dose vitamin D capsule once a week. The other half got a daily dose of 400 IU plus a weekly placebo (sugar pill). All patients also received 1,000 mg of calcium daily.
Results showed that the patients who received the high-dose vitamin D every week reported significantly less joint and muscle pain, and were also less likely to experience pain that interfered with daily living.
“Patients who get the vitmamin D weekly feel better because their pain is reduced and sometimes goes away completely,” said Antonella L. Rastelli, M.D., lead author of the study. He added that breast cancer patients taking other similar drugs may also benefit from high-dose vitamin D.
Now the scientists want to follow up to figure out the safest approach to supplementing with vitamin D in breast cancer patients. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, so too much can cause high levels of calcium in the urine, which can increase the risk of kidney stones. Otherwise, however, as long as the patients are monitored by their doctors, the researchers feel the supplementation appears to be safe, as vitamin D is non toxic, and doesn’t cause major side effects.
This is an early study, so I advise caution. Considering the results and the safety of vitamin D, however, you may want to talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing a lot of pain. Anything that can help is worth a try, as the most important thing is that you make it through your treatment feeling as strong as possible.
What do you think of this study? Are you going to talk to your doctor about vitamin D?
Washington University School of Medicine. “Vitamin D relieves joint, muscle pain for breast cancer patients.” ScienceDaily, 26 Jul. 2011. Web. 9 Sep. 2011.
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