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Topic: Looking for encouragement & advice for chest tightness after BMX

Forum: Living Without Reconstruction After a Mastectomy — Discuss prostheses, swimsuits, bras, and other options for women not having reconstruction or waiting for reconstruction.

Posted on: Jul 6, 2018 09:46PM

SPDGirl wrote:

Hello everyone. I am 45 and almost 8 weeks post BMX (without reconstruction) and am trying to gather encouragement on when the tightness in my chest will dissipate and any advice that might help the process go quicker. I believed my BS when she said I should feel recovered in 4-6 weeks and I didn't gather any preliminary info, so I was naively surprised at the immediate and continuing tightness following surgery that has been making every day a struggle. My BS is very caring and did a wonderful job, but my extended discomfort is confusing her.

Full Disclosure: I have Sensory Proccessing Disorder and I have always been highly sensitive to any restriction in my trunk area (no bras, elastic waistbands, etc).

Any advice and especially encouragement is appreciated and I have specific curiosity on:

  • Timeline - my BS said usually the chest tightness in her non-reconstruction ladies is just a minor annoyance at this point, but that it could take 6 months for it to be entirely gone. Am I the only one so bothered by the tightness and will it really get better?
  • Exercises - my BS cleared me for simple stretching exercises at 4 weeks, but did not give me any specifics. I have been doing some I found online 1-3 times per day. My range of motion is almost entirely recovered, but i don't feel tightness relief and in fact sometimes feel a bit better on days that i skip them.
  • Reasoning - is the tightness muscles, skin, scar tissue, all of the above? Mine starts in the middle of my chest, right above where my cleavage would be and extends upwards and outwards ending kind of up in my arm pits. It is worse on the side that I had 5 nodes removed. It is like having a slightly high, tight, ill-fitting bra on.
  • Meds - I have only used Tylenol and Advil since surgery and neither seem to help the tightness at all. My BS hesitantly prescribed a muscle relaxant (Valium 2mg) just this week. I noticed a slight relief on 1 day, but not on the next. Is it really unusual for non-reconstruction cases not to have muscle relaxers?
  • PT - My BS did not reccomend any PT since my range of motion has been good and she did not see any evidence of cording.
  • Massage - My BS said I was welcome to pursue something gentle. I asked about someone specializing in post mastectomy, myofasial or Oncology massage, but she did not seem to think necessary.
  • Oddity - my BS said that typically people hold their stress in their neck, but that people that have had breast surgery now hold their stress in their chest muscles and can seize up on bad days forever. For real? Why the change?
Thank you in advance!
Dx 3/2018, IDC, Right, <1cm, Stage IB, Grade 2, 0/5 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- (IHC) Dx 5/2018, DCIS, Left, Stage 0, Grade 1 Surgery 5/14/2018 Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Left, Right
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Jul 6, 2018 10:10PM IntegraGirl wrote:

I had BMX at the end of August 2017. I still have days when my chest gets tight. I went to physio for a few months and got a good set of exercises that I still do if things get tight

Dx 1/20/2017, IBC, Left, 2cm, Stage IIIC, Grade 3, ER-/PR-, HER2- Chemotherapy 2/28/2017 Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Ellence (epirubicin), Fluorouracil (5-fluorouracil, 5-FU, Adrucil), Taxotere (docetaxel) Surgery 8/31/2017 Mastectomy: Left, Right Chemotherapy 10/2/2017 Xeloda (capecitabine) Radiation Therapy 11/6/2017 Breast, Lymph nodes, Chest wall
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Jul 7, 2018 12:01AM carmstr835 wrote:

Hi Ingetragirl,

I have lots of tightness and pain and loss of range of motion. I believe it is more due to the radiation than the surgery. My plastic surgeon has explained to me that when he completes my DIEP reconstruction that the damage to my chest and tightness will improve dramatically because the fresh nonradiated tissue can help the radiated tissue to heal. I am doing this surgery mostly because of the pain and tightness that continues to get worse daily. I believe otherwise I would need myafascia release for life without this reconstruction surgery.

Dx 3/1/2017, DCIS/IDC, Both breasts, 1cm, Stage IIB, Grade 2, 2/17 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2+ (FISH) Hormonal Therapy 3/22/2017 Arimidex (anastrozole) Surgery 3/28/2017 Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Left, Right Chemotherapy 5/17/2017 Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel) Chemotherapy 6/27/2017 Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Taxotere (docetaxel) Targeted Therapy 6/27/2017 Perjeta (pertuzumab) Targeted Therapy 6/27/2017 Herceptin (trastuzumab) Radiation Therapy 9/11/2017 Breast, Lymph nodes, Chest wall Surgery 7/10/2018 Reconstruction (left): DIEP flap; Reconstruction (right): DIEP flap Targeted Therapy Nerlynx
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Jul 8, 2018 07:50PM windingshores wrote:

I had a BMX without reconstruction and remember reading the term "iron bra." I was uncomfortable for a few months and then it improved a lot, maybe 95%.. 

I did a lot of Tai Chi and Quigong which helped a lot...


Dx 2/2015, DCIS/ILC/IDC, Right, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 3, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- (FISH) Surgery Lymph node removal; Mastectomy: Right Surgery Mastectomy: Left; Prophylactic mastectomy: Left Hormonal Therapy
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Jul 9, 2018 08:02AM SPDGirl wrote:

Thank you for the responses. I love hearing that there is hope ❤

Dx 3/2018, IDC, Right, <1cm, Stage IB, Grade 2, 0/5 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- (IHC) Dx 5/2018, DCIS, Left, Stage 0, Grade 1 Surgery 5/14/2018 Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Left, Right
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Jul 9, 2018 10:35AM ksusan wrote:

I find massage for scar release helpful, as long as the therapist also understands about lymphedema risk and modifies her practice in order to be responsive to this.

Mutant uprising quashed. Dx 1/2015, IDC, Right, Stage IIA, 1/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Dx 1/2015, DCIS, Left, Stage 0, Grade 3, 0/2 nodes Hormonal Therapy Tamoxifen pills (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone) Surgery Lymph node removal: Sentinel; Mastectomy: Left, Right Radiation Therapy Whole-breast Chemotherapy Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel)
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Jul 9, 2018 10:35PM ReggieH wrote:

I’m also 2 months out — as of today! — from bmx without reconstruction. And I still have a lot of chest tightness even though it’s gradually getting better. Fortunately as long as I have some compression — either a post mastectomy bra or the chest binder that I got in the hospital— the tightness is minimal. But that solution won’t work for you since you can’t wear a bra, which is really frustrating.

Other things I’m doing to relieve tightness and speed healing generally are myofascial massage, acupuncture, the little PT exercises, and a natural wound repair cream that I got at the drug store. All seem helpful for short periods of time. I guess I’m just hoping that I keep feeling less tightness over time. It’s definitely better than it was a month ago.

Hopefully it will improve for you too. So hang in there!



Dx 5/1999, IDC, Right, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 3, 0/3 nodes, ER+, HER2- Surgery 6/11/1999 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel Hormonal Therapy 2/16/2000 Femara (letrozole), Liquid tamoxifen (Soltamox) Dx 4/20/2018, ILC, Right, <1cm, Stage IA, Grade 2, ER+/PR-, HER2- (IHC) Surgery 5/9/2018 Mastectomy: Right; Prophylactic mastectomy: Left Hormonal Therapy 6/23/2018 Femara (letrozole) Radiation Therapy Whole-breast: Breast Chemotherapy CMF
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Jul 10, 2018 01:27AM exercise_guru wrote:

I think you would really enjoying doing some very light range of motion exercises. Look online for mastectomy exercises from a credible site (can someone recomend a good one) . Then follow those guidelines. I am going through the livesting program and the YMCA and my trainer is amazing she has Recomended some very gentle exercises to help with my tight chest.

We are the same age I wish they had referred me to physical therapy initially. Trust your instinct and continue to work to get some help with this.Not everyone bounces out of that surgery without a bit of PT.

Age 42 05/15/2015 PALB2 mutation, DBL Breast Cancer Type 1A Grade 3 ER+PR+(right 1.3cm,.5cm) HERr+(left1.6 cm), 06/26/2015 BMX with TE 8/27/15 Chemotherapy TCH 12/30/2015 TAH/BSO/Reconstruction 1/29/16 Arimidex 3/1/16 Femara 5/6/16 Tamoxifen
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Jul 10, 2018 06:21AM Snickersmom wrote:

I had a BMX without reconstruction in May, 2017 so just a bit over a year. My BS had me meet with the lymphodema specialist at the hospital and she gave me a packet of exercises to help with the tightness, cording, and to help me get my range of motion back. They started with 2 weeks out of surgery and ended around 6 months after. They increased in difficulty so by the time I was 6 months post-surgery, I was much better than at 2 weeks.

I do still have some tightness depending on the weather, or what I have been doing, etc. I have found that exercise really does help a lot. I rarely wear a bra anymore because I love thefeeling of freedom without them! One thing I have noticed is that when I stand up straight and put my shoulders back a bit, the tightness is much less.

Give yourself time and get some exercises from your BS or ask for PT. That should help.

Dx 3/24/2017, ILC, Left, <1cm, Stage IA, Grade 1, 0/4 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- (IHC) Surgery 5/2/2017 Lymph node removal: Left, Sentinel, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Left; Prophylactic mastectomy: Right Hormonal Therapy 6/11/2017 Arimidex (anastrozole)
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Jul 10, 2018 02:16PM SPDGirl wrote:

ReggieH - so nice to meet another person at the same point I am at. My BMX was on May 14th. Is myfascial massage the same as scar tissue massage? How did you find someone specializing in it? I have used acupuncture for many years, but only once since surgery. She seemed less knowledgable on points to help with the tightness. Did your acupuncturist verbalize her strategy? Thank you so much for the encouragement. Praying that you continue to find greater and greater relief.

Exercise_Guru - thank you for the suggestions. I have been so surprised that no PT was offered, but have been looking up some stretching exercises.

Snickersmom - I am looking forward to the day when it will actually feel that I am not wearing a bra! That is great you were given a comprehensive list of exercises like that. Thank you for all the suggestions!

Dx 3/2018, IDC, Right, <1cm, Stage IB, Grade 2, 0/5 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- (IHC) Dx 5/2018, DCIS, Left, Stage 0, Grade 1 Surgery 5/14/2018 Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Left, Right
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Jul 10, 2018 08:48PM ReggieH wrote:

Myofascial massage works on the connective membranes that are everywhere in our body. I’d never heard of it before but a lot of people think it’s therapeutic so I thought I’d give it a try. It’s deeply relaxing and helps with chest tightness. Myofascial is different from scar tissue massage.

My acupuncturist is focused on scar management — healing faster and reducing scar tissue.

For PT exercises I’m using the ones in the book “Now What? A Patients Guide to Recovery After Mastectomy” that I got on Amazon. I started doing them a couple of weeks post surgery and am still doing them twice a day. Definitely helpful with a tight chest.

How are you doing today

Dx 5/1999, IDC, Right, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 3, 0/3 nodes, ER+, HER2- Surgery 6/11/1999 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel Hormonal Therapy 2/16/2000 Femara (letrozole), Liquid tamoxifen (Soltamox) Dx 4/20/2018, ILC, Right, <1cm, Stage IA, Grade 2, ER+/PR-, HER2- (IHC) Surgery 5/9/2018 Mastectomy: Right; Prophylactic mastectomy: Left Hormonal Therapy 6/23/2018 Femara (letrozole) Radiation Therapy Whole-breast: Breast Chemotherapy CMF
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Jul 10, 2018 09:05PM Snickersmom wrote:

I am visiting family and will be home at the end of July. Send me a PM and I will see if I can find the exercises and send you a copy.

Dx 3/24/2017, ILC, Left, <1cm, Stage IA, Grade 1, 0/4 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- (IHC) Surgery 5/2/2017 Lymph node removal: Left, Sentinel, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Left; Prophylactic mastectomy: Right Hormonal Therapy 6/11/2017 Arimidex (anastrozole)
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Jul 10, 2018 10:11PM - edited Jul 10, 2018 10:12PM by ksusan

Here are the exercises my oncologist gave me: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/treatment/surgery-for-breast-cancer/exercises-after-breast-cancer-surgery.html

Mutant uprising quashed. Dx 1/2015, IDC, Right, Stage IIA, 1/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Dx 1/2015, DCIS, Left, Stage 0, Grade 3, 0/2 nodes Hormonal Therapy Tamoxifen pills (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone) Surgery Lymph node removal: Sentinel; Mastectomy: Left, Right Radiation Therapy Whole-breast Chemotherapy Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel)
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Jul 11, 2018 12:25PM SPDGirl wrote:

ReggieH - thank you for all the information. I had a massage Monday evening and altho it wasnt myofascial, she did massage the incision areas and yesterday I would say I felt a notch better. I am trying to find someone that will do myofascial in my area as that sounds even more promising! How are you doing?

Snickersmom - thank you - I will send a PM

Ksusan - thank you for the link!

Dx 3/2018, IDC, Right, <1cm, Stage IB, Grade 2, 0/5 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- (IHC) Dx 5/2018, DCIS, Left, Stage 0, Grade 1 Surgery 5/14/2018 Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Left, Right
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Jul 11, 2018 05:04PM ReggieH wrote:

Those are the exact same exercises in the book “Now What?“. I do them twice a day, AM and PM. I think they really help because I can feel increased tightness when I haven’t done them for a while — like right now — and then relief afterward.

Dx 5/1999, IDC, Right, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 3, 0/3 nodes, ER+, HER2- Surgery 6/11/1999 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel Hormonal Therapy 2/16/2000 Femara (letrozole), Liquid tamoxifen (Soltamox) Dx 4/20/2018, ILC, Right, <1cm, Stage IA, Grade 2, ER+/PR-, HER2- (IHC) Surgery 5/9/2018 Mastectomy: Right; Prophylactic mastectomy: Left Hormonal Therapy 6/23/2018 Femara (letrozole) Radiation Therapy Whole-breast: Breast Chemotherapy CMF
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Jul 11, 2018 05:10PM ReggieH wrote:

And the exercises in the link that Ksusan posted are the same ones I’m doing and they help. Same with yoga and massage. I’m starting to think there isn’t one silver bullet but doing multiple things is going to give you gradual improvement. Glad to hear that the massage was helpful for you!

Dx 5/1999, IDC, Right, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 3, 0/3 nodes, ER+, HER2- Surgery 6/11/1999 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel Hormonal Therapy 2/16/2000 Femara (letrozole), Liquid tamoxifen (Soltamox) Dx 4/20/2018, ILC, Right, <1cm, Stage IA, Grade 2, ER+/PR-, HER2- (IHC) Surgery 5/9/2018 Mastectomy: Right; Prophylactic mastectomy: Left Hormonal Therapy 6/23/2018 Femara (letrozole) Radiation Therapy Whole-breast: Breast Chemotherapy CMF
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Jul 19, 2018 04:52PM dakrock wrote:

I had a BMX and immediate reconstruction.   I find the scar tissue that builds up around the implant is the most problem that I have.  I am almost 5 months out since the surgery and my plastic surgeon still has not released me.  She said I need to continue to massage the implant and break up the scar tissue.  I am finding it painful around certain areas of my chest.  It almost feels like I have little pieces of glass on my chest (I'm sure it is nerves that have been cut).   Had I know I would have to keep this constant massaging up I don't think I would have got the implant.   Frustrated and hoping this passes.

Bonnie Dx 12/4/2017, ILC, Right, 2cm, Stage IA, Grade 2, ER+/PR+, HER2- Hormonal Therapy 12/5/2017 Femara (letrozole) Surgery 2/23/2018 Mastectomy: Right; Reconstruction (right): Nipple reconstruction, Saline implant
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Jul 19, 2018 06:27PM SPDGirl wrote:

dakrock - I did not have reconstruction, so I don't have any advice on this, but hopefully others do. Praying that you will get relief soon!

Dx 3/2018, IDC, Right, <1cm, Stage IB, Grade 2, 0/5 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- (IHC) Dx 5/2018, DCIS, Left, Stage 0, Grade 1 Surgery 5/14/2018 Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Left, Right
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Jul 29, 2018 01:48PM SPDGirl wrote:

Still struggling daily with the chest tightness and "bra like" feelings over here. Had my 2nd massage and it feels heavenly during. She really works around the incision, altho this time I didn't feel the same slight relief the week following that I did after my 1st appt. She has recommended I see her every other week, altho I wish it was every day 🙂

I had my 1st chiropractor appt since surgery last week. Again, I didn't feel any physical improvement after, but I was glad I was able to do it without pain. I have been seeing him for years and he said that he could make a PT referral for me! He was leaving for vacation the next day, so it wont happen until next week, but I am cautiously optimistic. It hasn't quite been 11 weeks now since BMX and i really thought i would be feeling much better than this.

How is everyone else doing?

Dx 3/2018, IDC, Right, <1cm, Stage IB, Grade 2, 0/5 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- (IHC) Dx 5/2018, DCIS, Left, Stage 0, Grade 1 Surgery 5/14/2018 Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Left, Right
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Jul 31, 2018 10:29PM ReggieH wrote:

Glad to know that you’re getting some relief, SPDGirl. I talked to a nurse last week who had BMX several years ago. She said it took 6 months for her chest to feel normal again. So we’re half way there at 3 months post-op.

As long as I’m wearing a bra, I’m getting enough compression that I’m not bothered by the tightness. So sorry that’s not an option for you. I’d say the tightness in my chest is GRADUALLY getting better but it’s slow. Doing the PT exercises 2x a day is really helping.

Just starting to give myself short massages with some aromatic oil. It feels good

Dx 5/1999, IDC, Right, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 3, 0/3 nodes, ER+, HER2- Surgery 6/11/1999 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel Hormonal Therapy 2/16/2000 Femara (letrozole), Liquid tamoxifen (Soltamox) Dx 4/20/2018, ILC, Right, <1cm, Stage IA, Grade 2, ER+/PR-, HER2- (IHC) Surgery 5/9/2018 Mastectomy: Right; Prophylactic mastectomy: Left Hormonal Therapy 6/23/2018 Femara (letrozole) Radiation Therapy Whole-breast: Breast Chemotherapy CMF
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Aug 3, 2018 12:18PM SPDGirl wrote:

ReggieH - thanks for the continued encouragement. Supposodly referral for PT is going through today. I have some essential oils that I was also going to start using for some massage. Are you winging it on massage method/protocol?

Dx 3/2018, IDC, Right, <1cm, Stage IB, Grade 2, 0/5 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- (IHC) Dx 5/2018, DCIS, Left, Stage 0, Grade 1 Surgery 5/14/2018 Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Left, Right
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Aug 6, 2018 10:13AM - edited Aug 6, 2018 10:14AM by wallycat

I haven't read through all the posts so forgive any repetition...

I think 8 weeks is too early. You may be "healed" in terms of infection and post surgical issues, but I personally think our bodies can create excess fluid that is sometimes pressing and pushing on nerves and it takes a while for the lymphatic system and the healing to get the ratio and timing and all the "normal" stuff ..well..back to normal.

I never had real pain but the first 3-4 months, I was acutely aware of what had transpired to my body. Yoga that I had done for years helped me through it. It is gentle and you can pace yourself for comfort. I did have the "piano wires" that formed under my arms and had PT for that but I don't think the two are related. My gut feeling is that nerves that were severed are trying to regenerate and all the new sensations are hard to process for the brain right away. Give yourself time. Best to you.

Dx 4/07 1 month before turning 50; ILC 1.8cm, ER+/PR+, HER2 neg., Stage 1, Grade 2, 0/5 nodes. Onco score 20, Bilateral Mast., tamoxifen 3-1/2 years, arimidex-completed 4/20/2012

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