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Topic: swelling after bilateral mastectomy

Forum: Surgery - Before, During, and After — Surgical options and helpful tips for recovery and side effects.

Posted on: Nov 14, 2012 03:18PM

Lee_S wrote:

Hi Ladies,

I had a BMX on October 31st.  Six sentiel nodes were taken.  After 5 days I started to swell.  Swelling is in my upper chest, but the worst is under my arms.  It feels like I am holding a tennis ball under each arm.  The swelling is actually about the size of an egg.  I asked my surgeon and my PS about the swelling and all they said was I was doing fine.  Do any of you have any experience with this?  Is there anything I can do to bring down the swelling?  This is really driving me a little crazy!!

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Nov 14, 2012 04:16PM wildrumara wrote:

Hmmm.....I had swelling after my BMX and I often referred to the feeling under my arms as if I was carrying a clutch under my armpits.  If the swelling is more like an egg, I'm not sure what to say.  I did have a seroma develop on the left side (the cancer side) about 10 days after that had to be drained.  This was located under my breast. 

Aug 2011, dx wth IDC Stage 2, oncotype 25, neoadjuvant chemotTC X 6, BMX with reconstruction, Tamoxifen March 2012, April 2014, two small mets discovered on liver. Arimidex, May 2014 Liver wedge resection. June 2014 SBRT of second liver lesion. Dx 8/23/2011, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIa, Grade 2, 2/20 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Dx 4/2014, IDC, Stage IV, mets, ER+/PR+, HER2- Chemotherapy 09/30/2011 Cytoxan, Taxotere Surgery 02/29/2012 Hormonal Therapy 03/27/2012 Tamoxifen Hormonal Therapy 05/08/2014 Arimidex
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Nov 18, 2012 02:28PM Lee_S wrote:

Thank you wildrumara.  I went to my PS on Thursday and he drained 45 mL from the site.  This gave me a great deal of relief.  I did however, have to push the issue to get him to do anything about it.  He said it was probably not fluid.

Dx 8/2012, DCIS, Stage 0, Grade 1, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Nov 18, 2012 02:45PM maryah930 wrote:

Hi Lee - I had my BMX on 16 Oct 2012 and still have a large egg-sized lump under my arm.  I thought it was a seroma, as did my MO.  I went to see my BS, but no fluid drained when they made an attempt.  She ordered an US which showed it was just swollen skin and underlying tissue with very little seroma fluid.  I've been icing it, being very careful not to over do it because of the decreased feeling in that area. It has helped, but is still swollen.  I was told it could take months to resolve.

Dx 9/13/2012, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIa, Grade 3, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 10/16/2012 Mastectomy (Left); Prophylactic Mastectomy (Right) Chemotherapy 11/21/2012 Cytoxan, Taxotere Hormonal Therapy 03/01/2013 Femara
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Nov 18, 2012 02:55PM macyhen111 wrote:

I had my modified radical mastectomy on my left breast and a simple mastectomy on the right on October 18th, and am doing great so far. I have an egg sized swelling under my right arm where there was no cancer found. My problem is I have no feeling under most of my left arm pit where there is scarring, and a little numbness under my right arm. I am wondering does this go away? My surgeon said the feeling may come back and may not. It feels like I am washing armor under there when I am bathing. If it has to be this way I guess I will learn to live with it but I hope not.

Dx 10/4/2012, IDC, 3cm, Stage II, Grade 3, 1/11 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2- Dx 12/12/2012, IDC, 3cm, Stage IV, Grade 3, 1/11 nodes, mets, ER+/PR-, HER2- Dx mets, ER+/PR-, HER2- Surgery 10/18/2012 Mastectomy (Left); Prophylactic Mastectomy (Right) Chemotherapy 12/17/2012 Taxol Chemotherapy 02/27/2013 Abraxane Hormonal Therapy 08/31/2013 Femara
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Nov 18, 2012 06:17PM Lee_S wrote:

My surgery was October 31st and I still have not feeling in my armpits.  I think that nerve endings take along time to heal.  I certainly hope all the swelling is not a prolonged issue.

Dx 8/2012, DCIS, Stage 0, Grade 1, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Nov 18, 2012 06:41PM wildrumara wrote:

I am nine months out from my BMX and I am starting to have a little feeling under the armpit......the area where the nodes were taken out, just below the armpit, still feels numb though. 

Aug 2011, dx wth IDC Stage 2, oncotype 25, neoadjuvant chemotTC X 6, BMX with reconstruction, Tamoxifen March 2012, April 2014, two small mets discovered on liver. Arimidex, May 2014 Liver wedge resection. June 2014 SBRT of second liver lesion. Dx 8/23/2011, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIa, Grade 2, 2/20 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Dx 4/2014, IDC, Stage IV, mets, ER+/PR+, HER2- Chemotherapy 09/30/2011 Cytoxan, Taxotere Surgery 02/29/2012 Hormonal Therapy 03/27/2012 Tamoxifen Hormonal Therapy 05/08/2014 Arimidex
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Nov 21, 2012 10:09PM Nicole503 wrote:

Thank you ladies for these posts!

I had BMX with sentinal nodes (3 nodes on both sides) 8 days ago and the swelling under my armpits and the upper back of my arms is by far the most annoying thing for me right now.  I sometimes feel knife like pain in my armpits.  

I have a practical question -- how soon did you attempt to shave your armpits after surgery.  I can just about lift my arms high enough to attempt it but between the swelling and the numbness I'm nervous!!!  Advice?

Dx 10/31/2012, IDC, 4cm, Stage IIa, Grade 1, 0/6 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2- Surgery 11/13/2012 Mastectomy (Both); Lymph Node Removal: Sentinel Lymph Node Dissection (Both) Chemotherapy 12/27/2012 Adriamycin, Cytoxan Chemotherapy 02/21/2013 Taxol Hormonal Therapy 04/25/2013 Tamoxifen
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Nov 21, 2012 10:15PM LeeA wrote:

My breast surgeon tells me I can't shave yet (it's driving me nuts!). 

Also, I think the knife-like pain is the actual drain tube (you still have the drains, right?  I know I just saw your post on another thread but I'm kind of spacey these days). 

I still have two drains in place and when they pulled out the tubing for the two they removed I was shocked by how long the section was that was UNDER the skin.  

After seeing that I figured the tubing was the culprit behind the stabbing, knife-like pain (although I'm not certain - just passing along my observations).

God is with you in all that you do. Dx 10/9/2012, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIb, Grade 3, 1/3 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2+ Surgery 11/07/2012 Mastectomy (Left); Prophylactic Mastectomy (Right) Surgery 11/07/2012 Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement (Both) Surgery 12/07/2012 Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement (Right) Chemotherapy 01/02/2013 carboplatin, Taxotere Surgery 06/18/2013 Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement (Both) Radiation Therapy 07/30/2013 3-D conformal external beam radiation Hormonal Therapy 10/10/2013 Arimidex Surgery 12/10/2013 Reconstruction: Breast implants (permanent) (Both) Surgery 04/29/2014 Reconstruction: Breast implants (permanent) (Both)
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Nov 22, 2012 12:58AM Blessings2011 wrote:

Lee_S - have you been evaluated for lymphedema? I know that's always a possibility when lymph nodes are removed.

Right after my BMX in December 2011, I had VISIBLE swelling in my abdomen - I looked 8 months pregnant!!! What was not so visible was the feeling of having golf balls under my armpits. I walked like John Wayne - with my arms out to the sides.

I had an SNB on the left, with 3 nodes removed. The bandage that was wrapped around me in the OR was so tight I thought my arms would fall off. There were huge dents in the tissue all around the top.

Both surgeons examined me post-op, and said everything was fine. However, when I met with my MO 3 weeks later, she told me I had a small seroma in my left armpit  that would go away on its own. It did.

The numbness in my left armpit which also ran down the back of my left arm was driving me crazy. Now, almost a year later, a lot of the feeling has come back.

HOWEVER - I was cautioned by my medical team to never shave under my arms with a razor again. I should only use an electric shaver, as the razor blade causes tiny cuts in the skin as it removes the hair. With the risk of LE being so high, they said that using a razor was a sure way for bacteria to enter the area where the lymph nodes were removed, so stay away from the razor blades!

Dx 9/15/2011, IDC, <1cm, Stage Ia, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 12/05/2011 Mastectomy (Both); Lymph Node Removal (Left); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement (Both) Surgery 08/22/2012 Reconstruction: Breast implants (permanent) (Both) Hormonal Therapy 09/05/2012 Arimidex Hormonal Therapy 10/22/2013 Femara
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Dec 26, 2012 09:34AM Lee_S wrote:

Blessing2011,

I did have 2 nodes removed from the left and 4 from the right, the pathology did come back fine.  I have not been told anything about shaving.  I have been using a razor I will ask about this, I want to do everything I can to avoid lymphedema. 

Thank you

Dx 8/2012, DCIS, Stage 0, Grade 1, ER+/PR+, HER2-