Fill Out Your Profile to share more about you. Learn more...

underarm odor on my surgery side

I was diagnosed with stage 2A breast cancer in February 2009. I had surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy and I'm currently taking Tamoxifen.

A few months ago I noticed a pain in my underarm on my surgery side. I've been checked and the pain was due to a rib fracture. I also had two more rib fractures. I had a CT scan last Monday and a bone scan last Friday. Both tests were normal. The bone scan shows that the rib fractures are healing.

Another thing that I noticed a few months ago is an underarm odour on my surgery side only but I hadn't mentioned it to anyone. I don't wear anti-persperant anymore because I'm concerned that it caused breast cancer -- I could be wrong but I'm not taking any chances. Not wearing anti-persperant wasn't really a problem because I never noticed any odor until recently, that is. The odour seems to be at it's worst when I wake up in the morning and after exercise. I assumed it's because I sweat at night under two comforters and if I'm wearing pajamas. I don't like the smell and it concerns me so I googled it. I found out that underarm odour is a sign of breast cancer as is ear wax. I don't remember if I've noticed lots of ear wax. I'm a little freaked out now. My two year anniversary is coming up in a few weeks and I am worried now about this odour problem being a sign of breast cancer recurring.

Has anyone experienced this? 



  • iodine
    iodine Member Posts: 869

    I have never heard of underarm odor being a sign of bc.  May I ask at what website you read this?  BTW, I have earwax from time to time, but never heard of that being a sign of bc either.  Have you considered using one less comforter or sleeping in a light nightie or t-shirt? Or in the nude?

  • bdavis
    bdavis Member Posts: 3,192

    I had odor right after my surgery (lumpectomy) and it lasted about a month. I mentioned it to my surgeon and she hadn't heard of that... she said maybe its cause I wasn't using deodorant on that side, but I pointed out that I had even showered at night, used NO deodorant on either side and the next morning (all I did was sleep) my left side reeked and the right side was normal.. I think it has to do with the Lymph node scar maybe affecting the sweat glands.  It did go away for me.

  • javagirl39
    javagirl39 Member Posts: 17

    Google this:

    Bad Armpit Odor Predicts Breast Cancer Risk
  • javagirl39
    javagirl39 Member Posts: 17

    bdavis, I was assuming the smell had something to do with the lymph nodes but then I started googling and now I'm all worried it's something much worse. I'm going to give my oncology nurse a quick call tomorrow maybe but I'm seeing my oncologist next week so maybe I'll wait. I feel stupid that I didn't mention to anyone before.

  • bdavis
    bdavis Member Posts: 3,192

    Well it started after surgery and only lasted 3 weeks... so I don't know.

  • weesa
    weesa Member Posts: 78

    Wet ear wax is also predictive of breast cancer risk. (How do you know if your ear wax is considered "wet?"

  • carcharm
    carcharm Member Posts: 13

    OK this may be TMI about earwax but when I normally clean the cerumen out of my ears it comes out like in a ball. I had wet ear wax that actually leaked from my ear onto my pillow at night. It was wet and didn't ball up. Sorry to be so graphic but I did notice that. I also had bad armpit ordor but did not know till know that it could be associated. It makes sense if lymph glands are involved.

  • 3katz
    3katz Member Posts: 12

    It is a myth that deoderant causes breast cancer. Try Tom's Natural - it's a deoderant but not antiperspirant (I think). IMO - you may be needlessly scaring yourself about underarm odor & ear wax. Be careful about what you read online. However, it's very important to voice your fears and concerns to your medical team - no matter what they are. There is no such thing as a stupid question.

  • Barbie7
    Barbie7 Member Posts: 126

    Me!  I have terrible, 80 year old man smell under my BC arm.  I am just about 3 years out from surgery and rads.  I have been on Tamox for just about 3 years as well.  This has gotten so bad, I worry about going out in public some times.  I asked my oncologist about it just last month.  He had not heard of increased body odor as a late side effect, but thought it would be a good question for my radiation oncologist. (note to self, call rad onc)....

    Regarding the ear wax and body odor study.  I too found that on the web after googling the body odor problem.  What I read was that there was an increased RISK of BC for those people who have the gene that causes BOTH wet ear wax and bad body odor.  I believe it was one small study, so we need to be careful how much stock we put in this.  I didn't find a link between treatments for BC and increased body odor.

    My onc said he would keep an eye out for research or antecdotal information linking the two.  In the meantime, definately ask your onc so we can compare.  This is how side effects are often noted, after we start complaining about things.

  • pip57
    pip57 Member Posts: 7,080

    This is crazy.  But....I used to have "leaky" ears.  Especially at night. I don't think I have had it since bc tx.  I will have to check this out.  No issues with the odor thing though.

  • libraylil
    libraylil Member Posts: 325
    bdavis I have also had this post lumpectomy, only on that side and in one spot.  Its been a month since lymphie removed and it seems to have gone away.  Glad to know I wasn't going nuts. libraylil
  • javagirl39
    javagirl39 Member Posts: 17

    Since I started using a "natural" deodorant, I no longer smell the offending odour. But maybe the deodorant just masks the smell. I plan to ask my oncologist about this problem when I see him next week.

  • Barbie7
    Barbie7 Member Posts: 126

    Java, please let us know what your onc says. 

  • NinaUK
    NinaUK Member Posts: 1

    To Barbie7 - Yes, I have similar symptoms. My treatment five years ago was lumpectomy with sentinel node surgery, six weeks of radiation therapy and tamoxifen which ends this summer.  About 18 months ago (three and a half years after the treatments) the armpit on the breast cancer side started to smell different. It does not really go away even after thorough washing although deodorants do help. As Barbie7 reported, it is a strong odour smelling like male sweat. I was looking in Google to see if it might be of any significance (besides being just annoying and embarassing). Interesting to see that it does seem to be an unusual side effect experienced also by others. Glad to see I am not alone. I also will ask the oncologist about it and see what he knows about it.

  • MissBianca
    MissBianca Member Posts: 1,291

    I have noticed changes in how I smell, and did some research on it. I found a list of meds that affects body odor, and tamoxifen is on the list, as well as the anti depressant Effexor. The strange thing is, my surgery and rads armpit isn't the culprit. I think maybe the sweatglands got toasted. It's the other armpit, and the smell mixing with Tom's of Maine is just awful. I'm back to regular anti perspirants, but don't like it because our skin is an organ, and absorbs what we put on it. Think of nicotine and birth control patches. There have been numerous studies, and there is a chemical in deodorant that tests high in the bloodstream of women dx'd with bc. I think all these factors can be cumulative. Does anyone know of a natural deodorant that works well?

  • pj12
    pj12 Member Posts: 18,108

    I have the opposite problem which should not be a problem at all but it does concern me. I am two years out from lumpectomy for IDC with rads to follow during the  summer of 2009. I asked many times if my armpit was being radiated. Always told no, by radiology onc and also the radiation therapists. I have no hair in the underarm on the treated side, I do not sweat under that arm and there is no underarm odor... all these changes just since breast cancer.  I don't have LE but there is a tightness in that armpit that keeps me from being able to fully stretch that arm out even though I am physically active with it. And my arm on that side is definitely weaker than the other arm even thought I lift weights to strengthen it.

    Has anyone else had these post treatment effects? And if so, did you ask about it and how did your doctor explain it?  I could accept any explanation my R.O. might give but his denial of ay association to radiation makes me unable to feel confident in anything else he has told me. 

    Thanks for any input.

  • Shrek4
    Shrek4 Member Posts: 519

    I had change in the underarm smell (on both sides but then I had BMX) during chemo and since then. I don't associate it with "male" but with a more pungent sweat.

    I also got thrown in chemopause, and it seems that menopause itself can bring in a change in the body odor. I'd think the lack of estrogen makes our testosterone smell stronger. And that shows not just under the arm but also in the groin area smell.

    Anyway, here are some causes:

    - menopause

    - certain medications (DIM for example can change your body odor, not just give you gas - it's extracted from broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, after all!)

    - Your diet - too much meat, asparagus, fried and baked foods, and of course garlic, onions and curry.

  • Barbie7
    Barbie7 Member Posts: 126

    I found out that 'we' aren't alone.  I spoke with an LE massage specialist and while she didn't have statistical information, she did say that many women have complained to her about a new, more pungent smell.  This is all very interesting. 

  • javagirl39
    javagirl39 Member Posts: 17

    I asked my oncologist this question today. When I saw him in February, I had forgotten to ask him then. He reassured me that the odour is not a symptom of a breast cancer recurrence.

    I saw my oncologist today because I'm now having a pain in the rib area under my left breast and in my left breast which is on my surgery side. I am booked for a mammogram, an ultrasound and a possible biopsy tomorrow morning.

  • pj12
    pj12 Member Posts: 18,108

    I am so sorry for the new concerns, Javagirl. But glad your doctor is taking action so quickly. I, too, am a little over two years out. Just had my 2 year mammo and it was okay (after a little scare 6 months ago that led to an ultrasound).  Hoping for good news for you!

  • javagirl39
    javagirl39 Member Posts: 17

    The mammogram and ultrasound were ok and I didn't need a biopsy after all. What a relief!

  • pj12
    pj12 Member Posts: 18,108

    Great news, Javagirl!

  • duckyb1
    duckyb1 Member Posts: 9,646

    Ok, now this is weird..........Before I was diagnosed with BC, more then one time I noticed my right armpit would get a an odor like I had not put on deodorant,even if I did that armpit seemed to be the one that would go bad by the end of the day.  I had had surgery on that arm several years before, and was in a cast for about 8 weeks which caused my arm to stay tight close to my body till the cast came off...I always thought that was the reason for my problem down the road.

    Was diagnosed with BC in Feb 2011.  After reading this I'm wondering if there is some truth in body odor under the armpit could be a red flag............I still doubt it, but that is strange.  But I don't have the gene either.

  • mscal02
    mscal02 Member Posts: 167

    I thought that I was the only one experiencing this! It is happening on my mastectomy side. I record Dr. Oz,and have just gotten around to watching a program that aired in March on this very subject. He says that vinegar or vodka will get rid of the odor. I have not tried it but will.

  • browniefranks
    browniefranks Member Posts: 18

    javagirl glad you do not have a recurrence! Please continue to be vigilant and request a breast MRI with contrast in future since ultrasound and mammogram do not always pick up lumps. Also get regular bone scans so as to prevent future fractures. Do not disregard any bone pain or unusual symptoms and if your doctor does FIRE them and get someone who takes your concerns seriously!

    I noticed smells too but I am hoping it's that chemo messed up my sense of smell and I now have a more acute and sensitive sense of smell, not that everyone around me stinks. 

  • nmoss1000
    nmoss1000 Member Posts: 324

    Hi Java Girl, thanks for posting this. I am having the same issue. Only odor on the cancerous side and I am freaking out. I finished TCH in May and finished a year of Herceptin 6 weeks ago. Did you have a BM X? I had Bi lat. seriously concerned about recurrence. Also it coincides with my period returning. Headed for Tamoxifin. Going to see breast surgeon in AM and Gyn later. Got my FSH today and CA 125 is normal, but who knows false positives happen. Praying for no recurrence.

  • Karen3
    Karen3 Member Posts: 37

    Hi all - just have to quickly comment about this. I had really dark ear wax on my right side and lost my hearing in 2008. I had never experienced anything like this before and I went to see my doctor. I had to have my ears syringed - the doctor said it was one of the worst cases of ear wax he had seen. He examined my left side too but that was fine. Then Sep 2009 I was diagnosed with BC on the right side. I also noticed bad underarm odour on right side too - a distinctive smell and I remember thinking then that it was all too much of a coincidence. Fast forward to summer 2011 when I started with ear problems in the left ear this time and again the ear wax became dark in colour. I also had the strange underarm odour on left side too which I recongised as the same I had on right side just before I was diagnosed with BC the first time. Surprise surprise, in Oct 2011 I was diagnosed with BC in left breast! I have had a bilateral mast BUT the smell is still under left arm and I am still having problems with my ears on both sides. I am sure that if I mentioned this to my surgeon or Oncologist, they would think I was mad but I really do think there is a connection between BC, ear wax and underarm odour.

  • beacon800
    beacon800 Member Posts: 47

    I read about this and think there is something to it. For me, after my first MRI I smelled like that gadolinium for about a month, seriously, and worse under the arm. I showed my husband and he agreed. Then after all the tests and surgery I smelled like nothing at all for a long time, which was also weird. Now I am about normal again. The stuff they do to us has weird effects, we get a lot of drugs in surgery and treatment. They can cause these things.

  • jo50
    jo50 Member Posts: 5

    UMX 3/22, one node taken, no reconstruction. And I have that same pungent smell in surgery armpit. Had lump. in 2004, and think I had it then too (altho somewhat lost in mists of time). Can't remember how long it lasts, and hope it goes soon. Don't want to use deodorant there for a few more weeks. Very distinctive smell though. And yet another reason why I rely on - type in the words and sure enough others have had same issue, so you know you aren't a) alone and/or b) losing mind. May we all be back to fresh armpits soon.

  • Blessings2011
    Blessings2011 Member Posts: 1,801

    Only had SNB, and no chemo or rads...but I swear the pits smell different after my BMX and TEs!!!

    Not bad, not pungent, just, well, maybe chemical? Medicinal? Weird. Just different. Still using the same deodorant I always do.