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Topic: Pain/sensitivity after mastectomy

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

Posted on: Jul 19, 2008 07:58PM

sueUK wrote:

I am 2 1/2 weeks out of left mastectomy & node removal and in increasing pain - can anyone suggest some relief? Having been warned of 'some soreness' after the op I was in fact in excruciating pain on waking and was given morphine every 5 minutes initially which appeared to give no relief at all. I stayed in hospital for 3 days and had morphine, codeine, ibuprofen & paracetamol - at intervals - not all at once! But nothing seemed to offer much relief. Things felt easier on the 4th & 5th day but since then I have hyper-sensitivity to the side of my wound (under my armpit) and the underneath of my upper arm down to the elbow - I cannot bear my clothes brushing against me and even walking from one room to another is a painful experience. At my results appointment, I was amazed to be told that all the cancer had been removed, none was found in the nodes and all I needed was Tamoxifen - I thought such wonderful news would make the pain ease up! I explained my pain, they said it was normal and to continue with pain relief - I have cocodamol (30mg) but this does not help and each day it feels worse. The main wound is not unduly painful but is sensitive to the touch...so I dont! I do the excercises as I was told even though it is so uncomfortable.  I am now feeling kind of guilty about the pain and my inability to do very much as I know how lucky I am to be clear of the cancer, but the reality is I just want to cry because it hurts. Is there anything that I can do to ease this?

Dx 10/31/2010, IDC, 4cm, Stage IV, Grade 1, 0/11 nodes, mets, ER+
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Jul 19, 2008 09:34PM Pollygator wrote:


I too am experiencing the burning discomfort ever since my lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy.  Now I'm scheduled for a margin clearing and axillary dissection as you had this week and not looking forward to continued discomfort post-surgery.  In another discussion forum, other women (but not all) have indicated they have experienced similar discomfort.  I am not taking much for the pain - tryng to think of it like a toothache or headache, but it DOES encroach on my daily enjoyment.  Like you, my main wound is not unduly painful and appears to be healing OK.  I think we're stuck w/making the best of it...unless someone who reads this discussion has a better suggestion.

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Jul 19, 2008 09:47PM abinneb wrote:

Hi SueUK -

What great news you got!!!   That is wonderful ~

I'm nearly 4 weeks out and I had much of the same symptoms of you.  I am still sensitive under the arm, but it has gotten better.  I bought a few 'tank' tops - (I don't know what you call them in the UK) in a very large size and it helped because they were not snug on my skin.  

In your shoes, I guess I would be concerned if they had you doing exercises that were just making it worse.  Did they let you consult with a physiotherapist?   Can you see one if you haven't yet.  I can't imagine they would want you to do the exercises in that much pain.  

I do very mild stretching, but was told by my doc to stop if it got painful.  You might want to check the forums here and see if you can find the Axillary Web Syndrome and see if perhaps anything there relates to your pain. I was also hypersensitive in those areas, and my surgeon said it isn't unusual. But it did get better.  Basically I took if very easy with that arm.  And I couldn't find anything that help with the pain ~ I was told it was nerve related. 

I'm so sorry that you are experiencing that.  Do you still have a drain in? 

I hope it gets better soon


Bilat mast. Exch 9-'08 And though she be but little, she is fierce. Shakespeare Dx 5/12/2008, DCIS, Stage 0, Grade 3, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR+
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Jul 19, 2008 11:14PM sbmolee wrote:

I have hypersensitivity in my arm and underarm.  I purchased a sling - like used if one breaks their arm.  I wore it for about three weeks as it was painful to have my arm swing by my side.  I wrapped an ace bandage (not tight) on my upper arm so my clothes did not brush against my arm as is was so painful.  Lightly massage lessens the sensitivity.  Best of luck.

Live life to the fullest - it is not a spectator sport. Dx 3/27/2008, DCIS, 2cm, Stage IA, Grade 3, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jul 20, 2008 10:52AM NancyD wrote:

I'm about 11 days post bilat mx and still have soreness under my arms and across my chest. I know from previous surgeries that this will get better slowly. In some cases, you have to bear the burning sensation in order to desensitize your skin. The nerves in the area have been pushed around or bruised...badly damaged in some cases...and the pain is the result.

Do be on the lookout for red areas that deveop after surgery. Since you may not have feeling in all areas of your chest, especially along your incision, spots of infection may not produce the normal pain you'd have.

I'm not a complete idiot. Some parts are missing. Dx 2/22/2008, IDC, Left, Stage IIIA, Grade 2, 4/10 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Chemotherapy 3/21/2008 Adriamycin (doxorubicin), Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel) Surgery 7/10/2008 Mastectomy: Left; Prophylactic mastectomy: Right Hormonal Therapy 8/31/2008 Arimidex (anastrozole) Radiation Therapy 9/4/2008 Breast, Lymph nodes Surgery 1/27/2010 Reconstruction (left): DIEP flap; Reconstruction (right): DIEP flap
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Jul 20, 2008 06:50PM sueUK wrote:

Thank you so much for your replies ladies! In one way its reassuring that Im not alone, but sad that there are so many sufferers of pain!

Amy - no I dont have the drain in now, that was removed after 6 days and I dont think there is any undue swelling.

Nancy - thank you very much for the warning to look out for red areas! It is a bit difficult to tell as I was glued rather than stitched and despite many showers the wound is still bloody - sorry for the gore, and its not easy to assess. I do have my concerns though as there is an area at the end of the wound (under my armpit end) that is particularly sore and bumpy - so I plan to get that looked at asap! I cannot lay on that side at all which is a nuisance as that is my preferred sleeping side (typical!) and I really feel it should be more comfortable by now.

I will think about the massage advice as it does make sense how that could gradually reduce the sensitivity - it just seems like too painful an option right now!

Ive decided to not just grin and bear it though and am going to ring for an appointment with the doctor tomorrow - she can check the wound and hopefully do something for me - even if its just hit me over the head with a big mallet so I can sleep.....only kidding! 

Thank you again for your input, it is very much appreciated!

Sue x

Dx 10/31/2010, IDC, 4cm, Stage IV, Grade 1, 0/11 nodes, mets, ER+
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Jul 21, 2008 01:22AM abinneb wrote:

Sue UK -

Meant to ask you - did you have immediate recon?  I was wondering because someone said to me that the continued nerve pain might be from an expander pressing on a nerve.  But my PS is pretty sure it is related to the SNB and that hopefully it will calm itself after a while. I think you should explain to them how the pain/discomfort affects you - maybe on a one to ten scale.  Or say that it keeps me from doing my normal ________ (fill in the blank). Maybe once they understand, they can recommend some better pain meds.

Hope you get some relief soon!  

Let us know what the doc says


Bilat mast. Exch 9-'08 And though she be but little, she is fierce. Shakespeare Dx 5/12/2008, DCIS, Stage 0, Grade 3, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR+
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Jul 21, 2008 04:33AM sueUK wrote:

Hi Amy, no I didnt have recon at the same time. I think they really did envisage the need for radio and/or chemo to follow so recon was not an option. Obviously that things turned out so much better than that is what I hang on to...when I move, or walk about...he he!

Actually, I usually log on here at night, I think because that is when the discomfort has got the better of me and I need to be amongst you! But at this moment, Im just out of bed and recalling what I normally feel like when I am sat at the pc has made me realize that this is a lot easier in the morning, and its as the day goes on that things get tough. So Im a much nicer person in the morning....thats new!

I tried to make the appointment this morning but the system stinks at our surgery! No slots left for today and although they say they have an advance appointment system available now - they havent released those appointments yet - so I have to try again tomorrow morning. This is how it goes on day after day until you are lucky enough to beat the queue - it is infuriating and to be honest, the last thing you need!   

Still, the sun is shining - my 'nerves' havent woken up yet...I think I will take some meds now before it kicks in and give 'mind over matter' a go today!

Thank you for listening, I wish everyone a 'good' day!

Sue x

Dx 10/31/2010, IDC, 4cm, Stage IV, Grade 1, 0/11 nodes, mets, ER+
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Jul 22, 2008 07:25PM sueUK wrote:

Hi...today the doctor added diclofenac to my meds...(thats alongside co-codomol (30mg), citalopram & tamoxifen that I was already taking) and I have to say that after just two doses I am noticing a significant improvement with the level of pain. If I touch the areas - wound, sensitive arms & shoulder-blade - it is sore, but before it was painful just sitting here and currently it isnt - phew! I can also achieve more range of movement without awful pain, which of course should help with recovery. Fingers crossed that I have a decent nights sleep ahead of me and a better day - I will report back with a verdict after a few doses!

I looked up diclofenac on various websites and generally it sounds good - but not suitable for anyone with digestive problems - acid and so on.

Anyway, here's hoping!

Hugs all round! Sue x

Dx 10/31/2010, IDC, 4cm, Stage IV, Grade 1, 0/11 nodes, mets, ER+
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Jul 22, 2008 07:32PM Erica wrote:

Hi SueUK,

It sounds as if at least part of what you're experiencing is hypersensitivity caused by all those traumatized nerve endings regenerating. I experienced this starting about a week after my bilateral mastectomy and it lasted for about three or four weeks. During that time I found it excruciating to have fabric against me, until my physical therapist suggested either satin or silk tees or camisoles. I happened to have a couple of old WinterSilks silk tee shirts and they made the discomfort so much more bearable-- the material glided across my skin rather than clinging and didn't irritate nearly as much.

It sounds as if you've found some relief. Hopefully, this will begin to resolve in a couple of weeks, at the most. I have no problem whatsoever now. 



BreastFree.org (breastfree.org); BreastFree Blog (breastfree.blogspot.com); Twitter @BreastFree
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Jul 22, 2008 07:43PM abinneb wrote:


So happy to hear that you are getting some relief - finally.  I'm sure that you will start to heal better once you have pain under control. 

Best wishes for a continued great recovery!


Bilat mast. Exch 9-'08 And though she be but little, she is fierce. Shakespeare Dx 5/12/2008, DCIS, Stage 0, Grade 3, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR+
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Aug 10, 2008 07:05PM sueUK wrote:

Hello ladies! Well, nearly 3 weeks on now with new meds....and still suffering the hypersensitivity - now mostly first thing in the morning and later in the day. I think it gets me in the mornings now because I am managing to sleep on that side. Although sore to do so, it is my prefered side to sleep, but my arm hasnt cottoned on yet!

I think Im kind of getting used to hypersensitivity thing and can only hope it will ease in time. But now, I am being hit with fatigue and am wondering if this could be due to the tamoxifen - I have been taking it about three weeks now. Also, I am hot! Its not like a hot flash as I hear people describe them, just a state of being too hot all of the time. We have had some very hot & humid weather here in the UK and some days it has been unbearable for everyone, but then it will be cold & wet.....but not for me - Im still hot and having the fans blasting at me all day & night! I would be interested to hear if anyone else has experienced similar - the fatigue & the heat?

I have now been off work for 5 weeks since the op and dont feel that I am anywhere near up to returning yet.

Happy thoughts!!!

Sue x

Dx 10/31/2010, IDC, 4cm, Stage IV, Grade 1, 0/11 nodes, mets, ER+

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