Sore arm and painful veins

I have had 5 out of 6 cycles of FEC and been quite fortunate with side effects. However, my lower arm and vein in which I have the chemo is really painful. The vein is also quite lumpy. I know this is due to the chemo but wonder if any of you have any advice to try and make the discomfort more bearable. I am applying Diclofenac Gel regularly with only slight benefit. Thanks all

Hi Mac123,

While you are waiting for replies from your fellow forum users, could I suggest you give the helpline team here a ring, they’ll be only too happy to talk to you about your concerns. Calls are free, 0808 800 6000 lines open Mon-Fri 9-5 and Sat 10-2

Take care,

Jo, Moderator


I had 6 FEC which wrecked my veins, after cycle 4 they put in a PICC line, but by then the damage was done. My last FEC was 12 June & I still can’t straighten my arm however my Onc has assured me that they will heal over time.

Sorry I can’t give you any advice on how to improve your veins but at least you know you’re not alone & that they should improve eventually.


Hi Mac I have the same symptoms after only 3 FEC- it’s apparently the Epirubicin that does it. The GP has diagnosed it as Phlebitis, or vein irritation. I use a heat pack or a hot water bottle while I am resting or watching TV, and I put ibuprofen gel on it first thing in the morning and last thing at night. In between I take anti-inflammatories for an unrelated condition and that helps too. It hurts most when I forget and try reaching stuff off top shelves or doing Pilates exercises so I have moderated my routine in the kitchen and when I do my exercises! Apparently it takes weeks to months to get better and I would love to hear others’ experiences of how long it took theirs to settle down. Meanwhile I have 3xDocitaxel now and I am wondering how they will sort out the cannula? There was a “can do” glint in the chemo nurse’s eye when I last showed my arm to her, so I guess they have ways of coping with it!

Had my 3rd FEC today (next time Tax) My veins & arm have been really stiff & sore since FEC2. Today it really hurt on my forearm as she was putting drugs in, she put a wheatbag on & it helped, so thanks Penny will try that at home too if the pain persists.
ONC nurse said TAX not as hard on veins as FEC as given as an infusion…we’ll see!..xx

Hi…my veins were very similar to what everyone’s described this time last year. I had several complementary holistic therapies and the guy who did the aromatherapy massage showed me how to gently massage the affected hand and arm. I used baby oil and very soft strokes from hand to elbow for about 15 mins a day. This helped loads, but it did take time i.e. a couple of months before there was any noticeable difference. I started swimming again after chemo/rads and found that the breast stroke arm movement was beneficial. A phsyio friend of mine suggested mimicking the breast stroke movement with the affected arm for about 10-15 minutes every day. This made a big difference over several weeks with my arm feeling less stiff, and the veins looking much better.

They may well have improved on their own, but I felt better taking action! My hand/arm still doesn’t look how it used to look, so I think your Onc is right in that it will get better over time. Guess we’re all impatient…I know I certainly am, but have learnt that everything takes time :slight_smile:
Hope some of this helps…all the best to everyone x

Hmm Maryland that’s really interesting about the advice about breast stroke-in Pilates we do a breast-stroke kind of movement while balancing on the activity ball with legs parallel, feet on floor. I’ll try a few gentle moves with the theraband elastic first, but not until I’ve recovered from my cycle 2moz! Thanks for the tip!

Thanks everyone for your advice. I have comp therapy so will ask them about massage. The baby oil sounds a good idea as well as the “breast stroke” exercises. Its reassuring to know that this is quite common though I didn’t realise it may take months after treatment to improve. Oh well, small price to pay really!

Hi, I’ve had six lots of EC. It is, as Penny 47 has said. the Epirubicin that is the acidic one that causes the damage. I found that having an extra bag of saline after they’ve pushed through the chemo has really helped with the veins. Twice, I only had one bag of saline and those two veins are sore and corded. With two bags they seem ok. Hope this info helps someone about to embark on this awful journey.

Mosiecat : Thank you ! I read your post just as I was getting ready to go for my first T (of FECT-T, 3+3) and as I clung to my heat pad at the end I was asking them for an extra flush and sure enough, they gave me a full set! Now I have very little pain in the arm and the veins seem more supple. I can reach and grasp more easily. I can’t believe it is cured but it is certainly eased and I am keeping up with the hot water bottles/heat packs for the present. But thank you again- another Godsend from the forum!

Thanks again teo veryone for your advice.
I’ve had an extra bag of saline after the last 2 cycles of FEC which I think helped a bit. I’ve also seen my Complementary Therapist today who has mixed a moisturising blend with essential oils for me to apply as necessary. Fingers crossed it may help.

Hi ladies,
My goodness I am so glad I saw this thread, I have developed a sore fore arm and wrist and couldn’t work out why - doh???
I am due #3 on Wed nesday so will ask then but I think the heatbag will work, I might pick one up today it can’t do any harm.
I have no idea why I didnt make the connection but it felt like cording that I had on the mx arm and I couldnt work out how that could move arms, I am due physio on wed prior to #3 of FEC which is my last one then onto the T joy so hopefully if it is just this next few weeks then I can cope as I have had minimal s e’s so far so can’t complain.
Thanks again ladies
x x