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Topic: Two weeks after surgery - pain under upper arm

Forum: Older Than 60 Years Old With Breast Cancer —

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Posted on: Mar 30, 2020 05:15AM

abc54321 wrote:


I had a mastectomy with eleven lymph nodes removed two weeks ago. I have very little swelling or bruising. I thought recovery would be a snap.

I'm doing fairly well, but what really hurts and bothers me is underneath my upper arm (on the side of surgery). Not the armpit, but the inside of my upper arm - the part that presses against the side of your body.

The feeling is like a very sore bruise, but there is no bruising or swelling. Or feels like a burn - when I touch or press on the skin, even a very light touch hurts like crazy!

This pain is worse than my incision.

Has anyone else had this, and what can I do to reduce the pain? I asked my surgeon and he attributes it to the nerves that were cut, but he offered no advice on what to do about it. He did prescribe Gabapentin and that has helped me sleep. Without it, I can't.

I've tried creams and massaging it, even though that hurts to do it, but so far, nothing has helped. It's the same as it was after surgery.

Thank you, in advance, for any advice and/or suggestions.


Dx 1/12/2020, IDC: Mucinous, Right, 4cm, Stage IIA, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Mar 30, 2020 09:23AM Spookiesmom wrote:

Ask surgeon or PCP for referral to physical therapy. Could be a few things going on there.

Reoccurrence 3-19. Dx IDC, Stage IIIA, Grade 3
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Mar 30, 2020 10:10AM abc54321 wrote:

Thank you, Spookiesmom - I was called about having PT, but I'm not getting out of the house. I am doing exercises I've found online, daily.

It does not feel like a muscle pain. It's the surface of the skin - like it's sunburned or something. Very tender to even touch.

Dx 1/12/2020, IDC: Mucinous, Right, 4cm, Stage IIA, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Mar 30, 2020 10:23AM Beaverntx wrote:

abc, I described my arm pain as feeling like rug burn. It most likely is associated with healing of the nerves that were disturbed (disrupted?) during your surgery. Doing light massage of the arm helped a bit even though the origin of the pain was not in my arm. There is a nerve which runs from your chest wall through your armpit and down the back of your arm to your elbow. That is the bugger that is working on healing. How long it will take to heal is not totally predictable (sorry about that!). I anticipated up to two years because I had nerve pain after having shingles that lasted two years. It was not constant but would pop up its tingling head ever so often but diminishing in degree as time passed. So there is hope but for me at least it took a fair amount of tincture of time. Keep doing what you need to do to sleep as getting enough rest is a big part of healing.

Diagnosed at age 77-- Oncotype 17, dealing with this bump in the road of life!!🎆 Dx 1/24/2018, IDC, Right, 2cm, Stage IB, Grade 3, 0/9 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- (IHC) Dx 1/30/2018, DCIS, Right, <1cm, Stage 0 Surgery 1/30/2018 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel Radiation Therapy 3/11/2018 Whole-breast: Breast Surgery 6/15/2018 Prophylactic ovary removal Hormonal Therapy 6/19/2018 Tamoxifen pills (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone)
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Mar 30, 2020 11:24AM SpecialK wrote:

abc - this is pretty common, I also experienced it. I found that cushioning the arm with a soft towel or not too fluffy pillow during periods of rest was helpful, as was a layer of clothing that eliminated skin to skin contact all the way up unto the underarm. Nerve healing, as mentioned above, is a long process, but you should notice gradual lessening over time. It took a number of months for the feeling to dissipate completely, but I had zero issues by about the 6 month - 1 year point. It seems counterintuitive, but I have also read that rubbing the skin several times a day can be helpful - almost desensitizing it.

BMX w/ TE 11/1/10, ALND 12/6/10. 15 additional surgeries. TCHx6 2/17-6/2/11. Herceptin until 1/19/12. Femara 8/1/11, Arimidex 6/20/12, back to Femara 6/18/13-present. Dx 9/27/2010, DCIS, Stage 0, Grade 3 Dx 9/27/2010, IDC, Right, 2cm, Stage IIB, Grade 3, 2/14 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2+ (IHC)
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Mar 30, 2020 12:16PM abc54321 wrote:

Beaverntx and SpecialK - that you so much! I had started gently massaging the area, hoping to desensitize it, so I will continue with this.

And I try to wear a t-shirt that has fitted sleeves, keeping it snug around my arm and to not have skin-to-skin contact.

You have relieved my mind that this is normal, and it will eventually get better.

My two favorite oils are coconut and avocado, so I will massage these into that area and see what they will do.

Thank you all so much!

Dx 1/12/2020, IDC: Mucinous, Right, 4cm, Stage IIA, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Apr 21, 2020 02:34PM suz_eee wrote:

I have the same thing. It has been a month since my surgery and it is finally lessening. Definitely described it as feeling like a sunburn or a rug burn. My doc told me this is very normal and it is a nerve thing. She said the lymph node surgery can be much more irritating afterward than the lumpectomy. Very soft loose t-shirts. Only soft t-back style bras so no edge or seem went near that area. When I went for walks I would put a rolled dishtowel under my armpit to keep me from moving that arm too much and irritating it.

Happy to be feeling it go away now. :)

Dx 3/20/2020, Right, <1cm, Stage IA, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Chemotherapy 5/7/2020 Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel)
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Apr 21, 2020 02:41PM Moderators wrote:

suz_eee, welcome to our community and we are relieved for you that the discomfort is going away. Thank you for sharing your experience and tips!

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Apr 22, 2020 05:40PM rosecal954 wrote:

abc and others, I have exactly the same burning sensation on my chest. I am 2 weeks unilateral right mastectomy. I also have pain under my arm as well as rib/sternum? soreness but that is slowly lessening. I only had 1 lymph node removed this time. This is my second go around with cancer. I was one of the few (I'm guessing) Stage 1, Grade 1 women who got a recurrence, however this time it was caught super early with DCIS. I talked with my nurse-navigator and she said the burning sensations could be a combination of the nerves damaged from surgery or phantom pain. I wear very soft-cotton shirts which are not as irritating. Hope these sensations go away soon. Thanks for the info.

First Dx age 58, recurrence 2/2020 Dx 8/21/2013, IDC, Right, 1cm, Stage IB, Grade 1, 1/5 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- (IHC) Surgery 9/16/2013 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel Radiation Therapy 12/10/2013 Whole-breast: Breast, Lymph nodes Dx 2/10/2020, DCIS, Right, 2cm, Stage 0, Grade 3, 0/1 nodes, ER+ Surgery 4/7/2020 Lymph node removal: Sentinel; Mastectomy: Right Dx 5/4/2020, IDC: Tubular, Right, <1cm, Stage IA, Grade 1, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- (IHC) Hormonal Therapy 6/1/2020 Arimidex (anastrozole)
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Jul 29, 2020 10:35AM Micky110 wrote:

I had a lumpectomy, and the sentinal node removal of 2. It has been 6 wks. I have much pain in the armpit, and a little down and up the arm. Yes, it hurts to put my arm against my body. Feels like raw skin rubbing against more raw skin. Ive asked the rad. Dr., and she said it is the nerves waking up. Could take quite awhile. Hope it does go it hurts and very annoying. Good luck to us!

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Jul 29, 2020 04:14PM flashlight wrote:

Micky110, I found that a low dose of gabapentin (100mg) helped with the nerve pain. I took it at night and it also helped me to sleep. As time goes on the nerves might feel like you are getting little electrical shocks, but that goes a way pretty fast. Ask your MO if you can be evaluated at physical therapy.

Dx 11/15/2018, IDC, Left, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 2, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2- Dx DCIS, Left, <1cm, Stage 0, Grade 1, 0/1 nodes Hormonal Therapy Tamoxifen pills (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone) Radiation Therapy Surgery Lumpectomy: Left
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Jul 30, 2020 01:19PM PAKNC wrote:

I'm adding a plug for gabapentin for nerve pain, although I just started using it for nerve pain unrelated to breast cancer treatment. Another positive is that there are some clinical trials / research indicating that the drug can reduce hot flashes from endocrine therapy, if you elect to do that.

Diagnosed at 56. Second DCIS found at new treatment center during prep for treatment for original DCIS. Atypical hyperplasia also found on right breast. In clinical trial, on endocrine therapy, to see if surgery can be delayed. Dx 3/23/2020, DCIS, Left, Stage 0, Grade 2, ER+/PR+ Dx 5/29/2020, DCIS, Left, Stage 0, Grade 2, ER+/PR+ Hormonal Therapy 7/1/2020 Tamoxifen pills (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone)

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