Come join others currently navigating treatment in our weekly Zoom Meetup! Register here: Tuesdays, 1pm ET.
Fill Out Your Profile to share more about you. Learn more...

nipple and breast pain swelling after lumpectomy


I did okay the first week after lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy. I was very saddened though as I looked like a deflated balloon - I am very small breasted. I also had incision from just under areola to bottom of breast and it looked like my nipple was pulling down which greatly upset me as a lumpectomy is not just a removed cyst - it is a partially removed breast and I wasn't prepared for it emotionally to be that big of a deal.

But after one week, when I could take the binder and/or sport bra off, I swelled terribly, nipple and areola  2-3 times larger than unaffected breast and whole right breast (which was even with left breast before surgery  and even maybe a little smaller) is now much bigger than the left breast and very sore. Now at 2-1/2 weeks since surgery and still swollen with a pulling feelingunder nipple and over incision.

The pain meds made my head off and me feel nausious.  Ice works better, but can't go out with ice packs.

Can't exercise. Am very depressed and dizzy and don't feel like myself at all. Feel like I'm never going to feel like myself again.

Anyone have any advice or help? How long until I feel better and breast goes down?



  • binney4
    binney4 Member Posts: 1,466

    bb, there are several causes of post-surgery swelling. Have you checked with your surgeon on this? One possibility is a seroma, which is a "pool" of body fluids that collects in the operated area. It can be drained by your surgeon (which sounds awful but isn't, because you'll still be numb there). Another possibility is breast lymphedema:
    Either can be painful. It can be hard to get a diagnosis of lymphedema, as our doctors are often not aware of it. But it's worth asking for a referral for an evaluation by a well-qualified lymphedema therapist, as if that's the problem treatment can reduce swelling, pain, and the heightened infection risk.

    Hope you get good answers soon!

  • cycle-path
    cycle-path Member Posts: 64

    Did you call your doctor? An infection is also a possibility. The doctor should be told about pain and swelling.

  • missey29
    missey29 Member Posts: 3

    I swelled up as well one week after surgery. Also, incision started to bleed. Went to the emergency room and was told to sleep overnite sitting up and use ice packs to reduce swelling. The next day went to see surgeon and they did an ultrasound which showed 5 clots. The doctor actually squeezed my breast to release the pressure. He said it will drain out internally or externally. And he was right. Best to check with the surgeoun to be sure.

    Hope my experience helped. 

  • AnneEM
    AnneEM Member Posts: 33

    Hi bb,

    I had a large lumpectomy in April, also a lot of swelling and pain mostly in the afternoon. Some ideas:

    -pace yourself - I had to exercise in the AM and came home from work early to rest - which did help, try a rest (as in off your feet, reading, on your laptop, etc...from 4-5 or 5-6) to get through rest of day


    -massage thw hole area in the shower - that helped more than I would have believed...

    It did take me 7 weeks to feel *normal* as in no pain, all swelling down. And you don't know how it will all look until the swelling is down, so hang in. There are platic surery options availble to you, even with radiation, so don't despair!

  • rjbaby69
    rjbaby69 Member Posts: 6

    Hang in there.  I am still icing my lumpectomy site some.  There are times that it is more painful than others.  I had my lumpectomy on August 9 and I still feel a little swollen at the SNB site.  The breast itself is okay.  I am fairly large breasted and you cannot tell where the breast tissue was taken.  I never use the pain meds they give me.  Never have and I have had 2 hand surgeries (carpal tunnel) and a trigger thumb surgery and an upper full teeth extraction.  I just do not like hydrocodone.  It makes me sick to my stomach and I do lots better with just ibuprofen or tylenol.  But then again, I have a high pain tolerance.  Lots of people don't and they need pain meds.  I am just now to the point where my regular bra does not hurt as bad as it did.  Wore sports bra that opened in the front after the surgical bra came off.  Was a life saver!  But I still ice my lumpectomty site from time to time and I believe it helps.


  • truebff
    truebff Member Posts: 322

    Thank you all so much for this!

    I went to hospital yesterday. I was worried I might have breast lymphodema. They said, no, (I was soooooo relieved!!!!) this is typical after surgery swelling. I was in so much pain. My nipple started to recede from the swelling and was half-way submerged in it. I felt like my milk had just come in and I had no way to release it.

    They said they could drain some fluid but it might collapse the breast too, so they urged me to try to see it out and take pain meds and that eventually, (for some women 2 months, for others longer or shorter), for the body to reabsorb the fluid on its own. So I told them the meds I had were too weird on my head and that I hadn't been able to take them for a week.They gave me another and, yes, I am groggy as heck, but no pain now for 24 hours. And I slept like a baby (okay with weird dreams too) for 13 hours!

    There are a lot of experiences, I am finding out, that totally take us by surprise. It is hard to know or for the doctors to predict what one woman will expereince compared to another.

    At least they were kind and caring and if my swelling continues to overwhelm me, they will drain some of the fluid onmy request or try some other things. It was VERY helpful to know this is a normal thing though as I was deeply depressed about it being my ongoing quality of life.

  • truebff
    truebff Member Posts: 322

    I have a cool and interesting experiment going on...  I used cabbage leaves (washed dried and the veins cut out) to pack my daughter's breasts after a miscarriage several years ago. It helped her tremendously. It has also been used to relieve swelling in wisdom tooth surgeries by some dentists.

    So, today, I packed my breast in clean green cabbage leaves, changing every two hours. (It's important to change them periodically and if you leave in too long, not a problem, you will just end up smelling like cooked cabbage :-D)

    I feel so relieved, so comforted, and so much better.

    The cabbage leaves help the body get rid of excess fluid like lymph fluid.

    If anyone tries this, please let me know how it went for you!

  • truebff
    truebff Member Posts: 322

    I'd like to update: It has now been six weeks since surgery. I find that three things are helping me most of all with my nipple pain:

    1. deep and long sleep (I have almost no swelling or pain upon waking from 9-12 hours of sleep)

    2. the post-surgery exercises (They help keep the area from shrinking back by gently stetching and strengthening the stitich areas! Really!)

    3.regular intervals (currently less than I started with) of the pain killer Ultram. (BTW, I experiment with this and take off 2-3 days to see how my pain is really doing and I now have  two-day intervals between the meds when I feel really okay so long as I use bandeaus or sports bras while exercising).

    Progress is helpful. Also, saw my regular gyn. doctor who gave me an additional 6 week to 3 month window for feeling better and that my nipple area and nerve endings are being pulled down and agitated by the kind of cut and procedure I had). He also told me that six months after rad if still needed I could have a simple nipple reset and breast filler PS procedure. Being ackowledged for my pain helped (as the cancer center thought I should be fine  in 3-4 weeks post-op and then have made me go through the ringer for each *week's* worth of the pain meds - ugh- like I need to be treated like that). Having someone knowing my pain was real was comforting.

    In my life, the doctors who believe that the body's signals and symptoms are importatnt to listen to, are the BEST!!!!

    So to others suffering out there: I have this to say:

    Your distress is real. AND. It will get better. It will get better. It will get better.

    God Bless and Hold On.

  • browniefranks
    browniefranks Member Posts: 18

    Hi Truebff, sorry about the pain! Unfortunately,8 months after surgery, I still have pain and swelling. I think radiation may have increased the swelling and pain... best of luck with your recovery.

  • Christinesnickel

    It has been 11 months post a pre cancer lumpectomy and I still have pain not only in the incision area but also in the area the cells were taken out, some days it hurts all day and others just aches and pains.  I also get pain in the nipple area that feels as though somone is pinching it off.  Sometimes the pain has a burning sensation. I have not been able to get a follow up mammogram due to lack of insurance and I am scared it has become full blown cancer.  Does anyone else have any experiences like this?  What should I do?  ANYTHING please!

  • Kammy
    Kammy Member Posts: 1

    Hi, Christinesnickel,

    It's been a long time since you posted this (Nov 2011), but since I found your post as I was researching exactly what you describe, I thought I'd reply in case it helps someone else.  I had lumpectomy surgery on 4/3/2012 for early stage 1 cancer in my right breast, and three lymph nodes were removed under my right arm, so I have two incision locations. 

    I have been told by multiple medical professionals that the sharp shooting pains, aches, burning sensations, electrical shock sensations, feelings of engorgement and aches up into my right arm are totally normal and can last a year, and even beyond.  In addition, I also have many of the same sensations as others have posted:  feeling that the nipple is being retracted inward, pulling and tugging within the breast in a different location than the incision.  Although I have not tried the cabbage leaves (no cabbage handy!) I, as others, do periodically feel the need to use soft icepacks which really do seem to help.  I also continue to find the need forTylenol, often in combination with Ibuprofen to help alleviate some of these symptoms. 

    From my consultations with medical professionals and from research I have done on my own, I believe that some of this pain is nerve related pain.  Many of us suffer from numbness after surgery, and some of the pain and sensations we feel are a result of small nerves coming "back to life" (my term). Unfotunately, I find that to some extent, the neuropathy (nerve pain) does not seem to be controlled by either anti-inflammatories (Ibuprofen) or pain relievers (acetaminophen/Tylenol),

    One of the things that seems to bring more of these symptoms into action is stress.  Often in a stressful situation, the symptoms clearly flare up.  I also agree that being rested helps me a great deal and I have fewer symptoms.  There will be days that I finally feel "almost back to normal", and then I'll have a day or two of symptoms all over again.  I'm resigned to the fact that this is apparently normal, and I need to find ways to deal with it. 

    You may have already discovered this, but there are clinics all over the country that will offer Mammograms at no cost to those whose insurance does not cover them (or they are without insurance). While every one of us who accesses this site is certainly at risk for the recurrence of breast cancer, although I am no expert, I can tell you that the symptoms you describe are identical to the ones I have continue to have, simply as a result of the surgery. 

    I hope that this may server as a source of some encouragement to others. Blessings to all who are dealing with this.... K  :)

  • truebff
    truebff Member Posts: 322

    In case this also helps anyone out there:

    Update: at 9 months post surgery and 5 months post radiation:

    Just when I started to feel better, 2-1/2 months after surgery, onto radiation and all that (!).

    What I can say today, after a pretty rough ride, is that with physical/occupation therapy (do not hesitate - it will help so much!), continued exercises, sleep, and time...

    I am pretty much normal. I am a little tight. Sometimes I am a little sore, but not too badly now. I don't believe I'll need corrective surgery; at this point I can't believe how much more normal I look. The scarring (bumpiness feeling) under the surface is slowly healing and softening. I am beginning to sleep better and to get my energy back.

  • CGR
    CGR Member Posts: 1

    I had a lumpectomy on December 19, 2011 and started six weeks radiation in March of this year.  I have had major discomfort, have had the breast aspirated four times before radiation, had and have a very tender nipple,  and still have major redness below the breast and on the side of the breast where the surgical scar is located, have swelling, have very tough and hard flesh there, had knife-like internal pain and just now, in the last few days, noticed limited discharge from my nipple.  Last weekend, I finally went to a urgent care clinic and only there was diagnosed with cellulitis and given an antibiotic shot and other meds.  I noticed a bit of improvement from the shot, but again, seem to be back to square one with all the symptoms.  I am so disgusted with the discomfort, pain and limitations on my daily life that I wish I had a complete mastectomy.

    Anyone have any suggestions?


  • truebff
    truebff Member Posts: 322

    I say, ask for meds - and ALL you need!-  and help and ask some more, and, with time, hoping, for you too, (and time may mean months or even a year or more) relief at last. We are with you. God Speed.

  • Cygnet
    Cygnet Member Posts: 1

    I also had significant, diffuse swelling of my breast after my lumpectomy.  But in my case, I think my breast was 'insulted' by the process of having the blue dye injected into, and massaged through, my ducts so the surgeon could find my sentinal and axillary lymph nodes!  The generalized pain throughout my breast tissue was much more annoying than any pain directly associated with either of my incisions.  I received the same advice from my surgeon as many of you ==> that it could take months for all the various forms of discomfort and swelling to disappear, and that I just had to tough it out.

    I sought advice from my primary physician, who practices holistic medicine, before making final decisions about the rest of my treatment plan.  After examining my breast, incisions, and swelling, she recommended three homeopathic remedies: two to increase blood circulation in the breast (to help carry off cells injured during surgery, pooled blood, excess liquid in the tissue, and any inflamed/injured/dead cells from the dye injection/massaging process), and a third to help my lymph nodes drain (I had significant localized swelling at the sentinal node incision, plus 'cording' from the top of my breast, through my armpit, and up into my arm that was painful and limited movement).

    In one week's time my pain and swelling has reduced significantly, and at this rate I think will be gone in another week.

    If you are comfortable with, and have access to, complementary forms of medical treatment, I would highly recommend you explore it for these sorts of side effects.  No doubt about it - I wanted the best AMA licensed surgeon I could find for my lumpectomy, and highly experienced radiologists and oncologists for the rest of my treatment.  But for side effects after surgery like pain and swelling?  It could well be that naturopaths, homeopaths, or physicians who practice holistic medicine will have more to offer you than just, "it'll go away eventually."

    My 2 cents.

  • debg56
    debg56 Member Posts: 1

    I had lumpectomy surgery 10-11-12 on my right breast and am almost 8 weeks post surgery.  I had high intensity twice per day partial breast radiation for 5 days and am almost 4 weeks post radiation.  I too have what my doctor has diagnosed as nerve pain.  I have a burning sensation that seems to be most intense at the very tip of my nipple.  I massage my nipple, the whole breast and the incisions (where the lump was removed and where the 2 lymph nodes were removed) every day numerous times each day.  I also get what feels like sharp knifes cutting into me, which I think might be caused by the internal stitches  I also put soft ice packs on my breast and that seems to give me the most relief.  Pain meds do not help much.  Sleep (with the use of sleep meds) at night gives me the most relief.  I feel that if I get tired or start to stress about anything, the pain gets more intense.  I am praying that time will heal me and the pain will get better and hopefully go away completely someday.  At this time, my pain rather consumes my energy everyday.   When I talk to my doctor's office, I feel like they don't understand my pain.  It has been a great relief to read the posts on this website to see I am not alone and that there is hope.   I will post again when I have any change. 

  • Mahrski
    Mahrski Member Posts: 1


    Thank you. I had my lumpectomy in Ohio, 6 weeks ago and came to Florida for radiation treatment. Went to an oncologist in Florida that was highly recommended. Told her of my pain, and she said I should be better by now and no one else has ever complained of pain at this stage. Really? So I was pretty down last night and couldn't sleep so I got on the computer and started searching my symptoms. And this blog appeared and you said everything I have. OMG...I'm not crazy. So I called the PA at my oncologists office and she said the same the her boss told me, and take Aleve! Please tell me it gets better! I hope you found a way to feel better and can share it with me.


  • Quintle123
    Quintle123 Member Posts: 1

    Hi Everyone!

    I just had my lumpectomy/sentinel node surgery Novemeber 25, 2013. I seem to be having a different reaction to my surgery so far, and thought I should share some of the stuff I've done in case that is why I'm not experiencing some of these symptoms, and it may be helpful to others. It's not quite two weeks so maybe it hasn't been long enough, but just throwing this out there in case it might help someone.

    When I first got the news October 3, I immediately changed my diet to all alkaline food, and got rid of any traces of sugar in my diet, outside of blueberries and strawberries and pomegranates. I don't drink, so that part was easy. Sugar causes inflammation, and cancer needs to have sugar to thrive, so I was trying to starve it. I had thought I had a pretty good diet, but when I tested my ph using alkaline pee strips, I was completely acid. Cancer loves that. I'm also taking a high grade concentrated teaspoon of Aloe vera every day, as well as two tablespoons of Apple Cider vinegar, lots of vitamins, and essential oils. I was soaking in a salt bath every other night, and working with a Pranic healer. I did biofeedback, and she was the one who told me the cancer was bigger than they thought. I haven't had to take any pain meds, only the Advil, and I only take it now to avoid any possible swelling from the massage part. I am NOT fond of that but will do it to minimize the scar, and help the blood circulate in there. My doctor is adamant about a cream with Vitamin E in it, twice a day for five minutes each.

    I broke down and had a piece of pie yesterday. I had made it for my husband.

    Thursday they told us that two margins didn't have a big enough clearance so we are going back to surgery January 13, due to the holidays. Got kind of bummed and said, "what the hell", and ate some pie. Today I'm noticing swelling in my ankles, and breast is more tender.

    I don't know if this is all coincidence, which it may be, but if it isn't, hopefully it might help some of you who are frustrated and suffering. It also made me feel empowered psychologically while I was going through this thing that I was doing something to minimize it's growth and possibly reverse it. My lymphs were clear so I'm happy about that. I am sending out healing thoughts and prayers to those of you that are truly suffering with your recovery, and hope it gets much better faster. If none of this is helpful, forgive me, I'm a newbie, and just want to help if I can.

  • truebff
    truebff Member Posts: 322

    My prayers to all too. I have to say that two and a half years out of treatment, I am better. My pain got worse about two years in and I understood/was told that it was the scar tissue inside that was healing nerves. That is now better. The stretching exercises continue to be important to me to keep the shortened radiated side muscles fluid and I've been told by my physical therapist that I must do them for the rest of my life. They are boring but only take five minutes. Four days without them and I have intense hideous neck and shoulder shortened pain, so I have to keep them up. But my message here, is that, we DO heal. It seems like forever, but Grace Happens and we are, thankfully and gratefully, better and as whole as we can be after all this. My wish for all is to remember to love and laugh when you can and to enjoy yourself in little increments but to embrace your joy, for cancer tries to rob us of it all. We cry and we endure for so long, but it is so important to remember to embrace our joy and have fun again! Brave souls all, sometimes girls just want to have it easy to find themselves again and to find themselves happy.

  • pontiacpeggy
    pontiacpeggy Member Posts: 6,338

    I've been extremely  lucky with my lumpie and SNB.  Virtually no pain.  Some discomfort but 2 days of Tylenol took care of it.  I am 6 days post surgery and my "bad" breast is swollen.  No pain, just swollen.   Nothing from the SNB incision or the incision on my breast for that matter.  Trying ice.  Any other suggestions?  I see the surgeon in 2 days.  I'm wearing a Genie bra but I'm ready to go without at night.  I'm small busted and don't need nighttime support but thought maybe it is a good idea for right now.  Thanks everyone!  

  • charlotte21
    charlotte21 Member Posts: 1

    Hi there

    Could you please advise me what is the name of homeopathic remedie she gave you:

    three homeopathic remedies: two to increase blood circulation in the breast (to help carry off cells injured during surgery, pooled blood, excess liquid in the tissue, and any inflamed/injured/dead cells from the dye injection/massaging process), and a third to help my lymph nodes drain (I had significant localized swelling at the sentinal node incision, plus 'cording' from the top of my breast, through my armpit, and up into my arm that was painful and limited movement).


    Many thanks

  • gourmetcook
    gourmetcook Member Posts: 1

    You ht the nail on the head. Thanks for the answer.

  • jellybeanjess76
    jellybeanjess76 Member Posts: 1

    i had the fluid removed due to similar issue. Felt so much better. Ultrasound and needle sucked it out. Just a local the clinic.

    For ice I found these kid size ones at our dollar store. They are little animal pictures but fit perfect in a sports bra. Re-usable too.

    Sounds weird but cold cabbage leaves. That trick was given to me when my boobs were sore nursing babies way back years ago. Cold, about the right shape and cheap.

  • minustwo
    minustwo Member Posts: 13,190

    jellybean - this is an old thread that has not been active since 2015. If you'll go to My Profile and fill in your diagnosis and treatment, and let us know why you have come to BCO, we may be able help you find a more current thread.

  • Auntmad
    Auntmad Member Posts: 1

    My right nipple is hyper sensitive . The mass removal on the breast is almost pain free but the node removal site is constantly painful. I'm considering numbing cream for nursing moms For the nipple.

    Anyone have any input

  • jenco60
    jenco60 Member Posts: 7

    Hi Truebff,

    I had my surgery over 9 months ago and this month started have some sharp pains in the area of the incision. I had a 3D Mammogram and ultrasound thinking it may have come back and both came up negative. I am now scheduled for an MRI. It almost feels like I tore a tendon in my breast. I too have a deformed breast from the lumpectomy. I went to see my surgeon and she is going to fix it. Find a good breast surgeon that also does reconstruction surgery.

    It is hard to find. If you need advice, I have a great surgeon in St Pete, FL

  • MTwoman
    MTwoman Member Posts: 228

    Jenco, Trubff hasn't posted since Feb 2014. Hopefully, she's doing well and off living her life!

  • MaryAnn55
    MaryAnn55 Member Posts: 1

    To Kammy. Thank you so much for this post. I had a left breast lumpectomy and the sentinel nodes removed a month ago. On June 5 I have a quick second surgery. I have early Stage 1 cancer. Everything looks good and I will start radiation. I am still in pain, mostly nerve pain. Thought by now it would be much better. Still red and swollen in one area. Ice packs are now a staple for me.