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Swollen painful armpit - back to the doctor again today

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anxious66
anxious66 Member Posts: 29
edited August 2023 in Not Diagnosed But Worried

Hi all - I posted here a few months ago regarding my symptoms. So far I’ve had a breast exam, mammogram, armpit exam, and blood tests. The only thing discovered so far is hypothyroidism for which I’ve been put on medication. I’m headed back to my internist today for my three month follow up regarding the hypothyroidism, however, my armpit is still not right. It’s better, but the pain and swelling are still there but not as bad. Based on my extensive research, I can only come up with cancer in the lymph nodes due to breast cancer. My mom has lung cancer and is now on hospice care, so I’ve really not followed up with this like I should and now I’m afraid I waited too long and it’s gone too far. I have lots of pain all over now and my anxiety is off the charts. I’m not sure what I’m looking for from this post, but no one knows about my issues because so much has been going on with my mom that I’ve kept it to myself, so I guess I’m just trying to get it all out to people who understand the terror surrounding the idea of breast cancer. I don’t know how I’ll handle having cancer while helping my mom with all her needs. My sons are not taking my mom’s terminal diagnosis well and it will break me to have to tell them that they now have to worry about me. I’m feeling very lost and despondent and I’m not sure what to ask for next in order to find out why my armpit is swollen and painful. Thanks for listening. This seems like a safe place to get my fears out.

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  • cookie54
    cookie54 Member Posts: 701
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    @anxious66 I'm so sorry that your mom is not doing well, it's so hard to watch a sick parent decline. My heart goes out to you and your family.

    I just wanted to let you know I hear you. We are always listening here and are here to support you. Since your still having issues you can ask for anUltrasound and see if that shows anything. If there is something that is questionable then an MRI would be next. Guessing no fever or signs of infectious process? If you truly feel as though something is not right keep pushing. One step at a time, remember you don't have a diagnosis of cancer so try to stay present. Take care of yourself but don't let fear of a possibility control your thoughts. Hope for the best not everything is always cancer. Hugs.

  • anxious66
    anxious66 Member Posts: 29
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    Thank you for your kind response. It’s been a very rough two years with my mom’s cancer and the fact that I’m the person she relies on for everything. I’m heartbroken that’s I will be losing her soon and it’s been very hard keeping my issues to myself but she can never know because I do t want her to have any additional stress. My doctor has ordered an ultrasound for me which I will have on Monday. He feels certain it is not breast cancer as he felt no lumps and both he and the radiologist looked at my mammo and did not see anything of concern but I’m not convinced, particularly because my symptoms have been present for close to a year and I have very dense breasts so mammograms aren’t that accurate ( unbeknownst to me as I’ve been having them for about 15 years and never knew how inaccurate they are for dense breasts). There’s so much about breast cancer screening inaccuracies that I never knew until I started reading these forums. I wish I still didn’t know as ignorance was bliss and now, regardless of the outcome of my ultrasound, I will always be fearful that something was missed.

  • kaynotrealname
    kaynotrealname Member Posts: 401
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    Hi Anxious. I'm so sorry you're going through this. I went through something similar when my mother was dying of cancer. From diagnosis to death it took only seven weeks and after she passed away I was a mess. Every glitch in my body was cancer. I had given myself all of them at various times although there were five that were my favorites (melanoma, colon, bladder, breast and ovarian). It was the darkest time of my life although years later I was actually diagnosed with breast cancer. Truly though it was nothing compared to what I gave myself. At any rate, I went on anti-depressants and started seeing a therapist to sort through all my crap and quite quickly began to heal. It was as if a light turned back on. But when I was dark no one could convince me I didn't have cancer. I equated my anxiety to being a lion roaring all the time and everything that squeaked in my body was pounced on and made into the worst case scenario. It was horrendous.

    So in saying that your words remind me of my thoughts. Losing a parent is devastating and losing one to cancer is a special kind of hell. It can be worldview changing and when it is that, you need professional help. I know you're busy and just trying to survive right now but I think some time spared to not only seek medical advise but also find good mental health care is vital for you. Your fears won't end when your mother passes away. That's not how anxiety works. You'll just spiral more and more losing precious time that could be spent making the most out of life with people you have left. I'm so grateful I sought help and got myself squared away to the point that joy came back. Sure eight years after she died my worst fear was realized and I was diagnosed with breast cancer. But my treatment for that was nothing compared to my fears and I even went through chemo. I had done so much mental work that when I was finally diagnosed I just shrugged my shoulders and got on with it. Sure the light got brighter when I was done but unlike when my mom passed away it was never eliminated. And I expect will never be eliminated again regardless of what comes my way. I think you might want to consider some care that will restore your light and give you the tools to keep it on even when shit happens. Because it will. That's life for every human being on this planet. Shit happens.

  • anxious66
    anxious66 Member Posts: 29
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    kaynotrealname - what you’ve described sounds so much like me it’s unreal. Even before my mom was diagnosed I had convinced myself I had liver cancer then multiple myeloma because I had some pain in my ribs. Since my mom’s diagnosis I’ve convinced myself I have skin cancer and now breast cancer. I’m going for an ultrasound on Monday because I still have pain and swelling in my armpit along with occasional breast pain. I’m almost post menopausal ( it will be a year of no periods at the end of this month) and all my symptoms started when my periods ended. My internist doesn’t think my symptoms point to cancer but after stupidly researching almost nonstop, I don’t agree. I do agree, however, that I need counseling. I’ve been prescribed Lexapro but after reading the side effects I’m too afraid to take it. I also suffer from emetophobia ( irrational fear of vomiting) so the idea of needing treatments that could cause vomiting petrifies me. These past two years have nearly broken me and I feel such despair thinking my children and husband will feel the same pain and fear as I have should I actually have breast cancer. I honestly can’t imagine what else it could be as I’ve never had any breast issues before and the armpit swelling and pain is very concerning to me. I truly appreciate that you took the time to respond in such a compassionate way. I’ve kept all my symptoms to myself as my family has had enough to deal with lately with my mom so it’s been helpful to post here and interact with people who understand. I’ll update after my ultrasound. I pray that I have nothing to report but truly don’t feel that will be the case.

  • kaynotrealname
    kaynotrealname Member Posts: 401
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    I am glad you are getting it looked at. However, despite your fear, there is still a high chance this will be nothing. Or nothing will be found. I went through a CT with contrast for bladder issues. Nothing. Went through an ultrasound for bleeding issues. Nothing although there was an infection they discovered. Saw a urologist, endocrinologist, dermatologist. Nothing. Well something, I didn't make my symptoms up, but it was all linked to stress or just my body being my body. So let your tests run it's course and then afterwards seek mental help.

    In regards to an anti-depressant, I was petrified of taking it. And once I started I had a few side effects which made me think…you guessed it….cancer. I about quit and then found an on-line comment written by someone who had also been tempted to quit after starting and she mentioned that so many of us want to self-sabotage. That our fears, even though excruciating, are our normal. We strive to return to that state because that's what we know. I read that, cried, then buckled down and continued taking them. On the dot at six weeks afterwards, my friend took me out for my birthday. It was a lovely day, sunshiney and bright but what I noticed after leaving the restaurant was that I enjoyed the lovely day. I could feel it making me feel good. I had forgotten what that was like and it was so wonderful. I told her I thought the medication was going to work. And it did and continues to do so. Look. No one wants to be on psychiatric drugs. Yeah I worry about the side effects, too, especially as I get older. But there is no way in hell I want to ever go back to that hellishness again. So the rewards for me outweigh the risks. Your life right now isn't okay. What if the medication worked and you found joy again? Would the rewards outweigh the risks, too? Anyway, I suggest trying it and sticking with it for six weeks and seeing where you are afterwards. Because a life lived with overwhelming fear sucks. You deserve better than that.

  • anxious66
    anxious66 Member Posts: 29
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    I truly love and appreciate your responses. You give great advice without any judgements so thank you. I had my ultrasound today which was fairly quick. The technician chatted with me the entire time and didn’t spend any extra time on any particular spot. When it was over and I remarked about how it took less time than I thought the technicians response, while smiling, hinted that there wasn’t anything unusual to see. Unless she’s a really good actor, i think she didn’t see anything concerning but I’m not sure if a technician knows when something looks bad since all my other ultrasounds have been fine. Do you know if someone else would have been called in had she seen something suspicious? She also said I should have the results in about 72 hours as they’ve had a lot of breast ultrasounds lately. I felt a lot of relief afterwards but I feel the anxiety trying to creep back in now. However, I’m really glad I put my big girl pants on and had the scan. If the results are fine but my symptoms persist, I’m not sure what the next step is but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I’ll also give the anxiety meds a shot. I’ve had Xanax on an as needed basis for years and while they work great, they aren’t meant for daily use. Again, thank you for chatting with me. I’ll update once I get the results.

  • kaynotrealname
    kaynotrealname Member Posts: 401
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    I'm sure you were right in your assessment. You'll know soon enough at any rate. But yes the anxiety is going to creep back in looking for something else to hang on to. I think your next step should be therapy and starting the anti-depressant. You need to break the cycle. Many hugs….

  • anxious66
    anxious66 Member Posts: 29
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    Well the results are in and absolutely nothing has been found. No masses, cysts, or anything. Also, lymph nodes are fine as well. So if everything is normal, why is there so much pain and swelling in my left armpit? The ultrasound was somewhat painful on both breasts, but from what I understand, menopause can cause breast tenderness so I’m not concerned about that. While I’m beyond happy that my results were normal, I’m really sick of being in pain and would like to know the cause but I’m not sure where to go from here. I know I’m under a lot of stress, but this pain started before my mom’s cancer returned so I’m having a hard time believing it is all stress related I do, however, think the stress might be making it seem worse than it is. The only test I haven’t had thus far is an MRI but I’m not sure that’s warranted when all other tests were negative. Of course I’ve done so much reading and have come across a few cases where mammograms and ultrasounds missed cancer and it was only found on an MRI. I think I’ll give the medication a chance to work and go from there. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you that have responded and made me feel less alone.

  • cookie54
    cookie54 Member Posts: 701
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    @anxious66 So glad to hear that all is negative! Yes, crossing my fingers that meds help and you can be done with this. Sending positive vibes .

  • kaynotrealname
    kaynotrealname Member Posts: 401
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    Here's what I noticed, Anxious. When I relieved my stress the symptoms alleviated. But here's the thing. I didn't make up the symptoms, just as you aren't. But some of us, maybe it's why we have so many issues with anxiety, can focus on our body and our body manifests things. We feel a twinge, we focus on it, we massage it, feel it, all our concentration is towards it and suddenly it becomes a real and literal pain. I know that's what was happening with me. I had to break the cycle first before everything calmed down. Let it go and use your focus to start some anti-depressants and find a therapist. And if you have side effects that truly you can't live with (which you may. My first one didn't work), try another. Don't give up. By the way I used xanax for the first couple of weeks that I started my anti-depressant. It helped take the edge off as my body adjusted. See if you can do that so maybe you won't panic as much when things ramp up. Because for those of us using them for anxiety and not depression it sometimes does. It's the seratonin effect. It makes us jittery. It doesn't last long though. You just have to grit your teeth and move through it.

  • kotchaj
    kotchaj Member Posts: 211
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    Anxious, I'm so happy to hear that you have had good as far as tests go, results. Kaynotrealname has some valid points. The pain is there and you're not imagining it, but your body could be creating it for you. I, too, am on medication for my anxiety. I realized that things that used to not bother me, now were and I couldn't stop thinking about them. My medication allows me to let them go, and I am not fuzzy headed, etc. It does take awhile for them to work, but they do. And sometimes it is so slow that you don't realize that you're feeling better until one day, you just do feel better and realize you haven't had those dark thoughts in awhile. Sending you virtual hugs.

  • anxious66
    anxious66 Member Posts: 29
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    Thank you everyone who took the time to respond to my post. My symptoms do seem to be getting better but aren’t gone altogether unfortunately. It is amazing though what stress can do to a person. I often feel quite nauseous from anxiety and stress but that’s a symptom I’ve had for so long that I don’t worry about it anymore. It’s just an annoying part of my life. I’m sorry that some of you have also struggled with anxiety. It’s a really hard way to live. I’ll give the Lexapro a shot and see what happens. Thank you again for all your kind responses. They made me feel less alone during this difficult time in my life.

  • anxious66
    anxious66 Member Posts: 29
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    I’m back again. Sadly my mom passed away two weeks ago. While I’m glad her suffering is over, I still can’t believe she’s gone. I feel quite numb. My armpit pain and swelling still persists. I’ve had the usual tests and all were negative. I don’t know where to go from here. I have not taken the Lexapro yet due to the possible side effects because if they are bad I can’t take anymore time off work as I missed six days for the funeral. I do have Xanax which does help with my pain but I’m never totally free from the pain and swelling. I can get behind pain being caused by anxiety, but not swelling. I’ve read every post I can find from several forums and so far can find no one who has symptoms like mine but something has to be wrong. I’m starting therapy next Monday but I really need to know the cause of these symptoms that I’ve had for over a year now. I’ve had a mammogram, ultrasound, breast exam, blood tests, and armpit examination. What other tests can I ask for?

  • cookie54
    cookie54 Member Posts: 701
    edited October 2023
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    anxious66 So sorry to hear your mom passed I know how hard that is. I can identify when my mom was sick and suffering it was a very difficult time in my life. Time does make the loss hurt a little less but we miss them forever.

    Also sorry to hear your still dealing with this as you you have had multiple negative studies. I would just address it with your doctor again have them do another physical exam. See if your doctor agrees that it is still swollen and go from there. Maybe they will have to repeat some of the testing to see if anything has changed?

    Wishing you all the best and hoping for some pain relief in the near future.