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Topic: shortened tendon after mascectomy and lymphectomy

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

Posted on: May 13, 2012 04:42PM

archer wrote:

I had a mastectomy and lymphectomy on Apr. 25.  Since then, I have been trying to do the required exercises, which involve bringing my arm over my head.  Everytime I try to do this, I have a sharp pulling pain from my incision, through my armpit, and down the underside of my arm.  I have only been able to get my arm part-way up before the pain and pull stop me.  In the mirror, I can see that thepain is coming from a tendon (or something like it) visibly stretching through my armpit and down my arm.  This is very frightening to me.  My surgeon says it's too soon to worry and keep exercising and massaging it. 

I worry because in my daily activities, I sometimes reflexively use that arm in a way that causes it to stretch too much.  I'm afraid of tearing that shortened tendon and maybe doing permanent damage.  

Has anyone else had this happen?  Will it indeed get better with time or should I insist on physical therapy asap?   Thank you for any help you can offer.

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May 13, 2012 05:00PM - edited May 13, 2012 05:03PM by 1openheart

Archer...it sounds like it could be axillary web syndrome or axillary cording.  There are several threads on this board about it and you can google to get more information outside this site.  There are several articles on this site.  

To find them go to the bc.org home page and in the search box put axillary web syndrome. 

Good luck with your recovery.  Yes, PT would be a great help now.  I had a different type of cording called Mondor's cording in my chest wall underneath my breast and PT has helped a lot.  It needs to be the right kind of PT though.  See someone who is very knowledgeable about lymphodema and/or myofascial release physical therapy. 

"The wound is the place where the light enters you." ~ Rumi Dx 4/28/2011, DCIS, 1cm, Stage 0, Grade 3, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR+ Surgery 6/14/2011 Lymph node removal: Left, Sentinel; Mastectomy: Left; Reconstruction (left): Nipple reconstruction
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May 13, 2012 05:27PM nurseronda10 wrote:

Sounds just like what I had after the mastectomy and again after breast reconstruction (LD flap).  Be sure and go to a physical therapist that is lymphedema certified.  The first one I went to did not know a lot about it and the stretching caused my wrist to swell up.  Only physical therapy can stretch the cording out.  I tried to do it myself having known all the exercises to do but it is truly impossible.  Mine was axillary web syndrome both times.  I had one cord that ran all the way down to my wrist that even made it difficult to drive.  Very few doctors know anything about cording or lymphedema.  So, so sad. 

Dx 8/25/2010, IDC, 1cm, Stage II, Grade 2, 1/8 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2+ Surgery 9/13/2010 Lymph node removal: Left, Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Left Targeted Therapy 10/27/2010 Herceptin (trastuzumab) Chemotherapy 10/27/2010 Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Taxotere (docetaxel) Hormonal Therapy 4/15/2011 Arimidex (anastrozole) Surgery 3/7/2012 Reconstruction (left): Latissimus dorsi flap, Tissue expander placement Surgery 3/7/2012 Prophylactic mastectomy: Right; Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Surgery 6/13/2012 Reconstruction (left); Reconstruction (right)
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May 13, 2012 10:06PM archer wrote:

Thank you both for your helpful replies.  I really had no idea that this condition existed.  They told me about the possibility of swelling, but no one has ever mentioned cording.  I'll get that physical therapy right away. 

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May 13, 2012 10:12PM - edited May 13, 2012 10:14PM by Jejik

I had a lumpectomy and lymph node removal and I have the same issue...I have this stringy like tendon under my armpit, and limited range of motion in my arm. I am sorry you are having problems also, but good to know I am not alone! Please let me know how it works out for you. Do you ever accidentally press on it and get a burning sensation in uour fingers? That has happened to me a few times, and scared me to death.p>

I am a breast cancer fighter, not a survivor. Dx 9/21/2010, IDC, 2cm, Stage IV, Grade 3, 1/10 nodes, mets, ER-/PR-, HER2+ Surgery Lumpectomy: Left; Lymph node removal: Left, Underarm/Axillary Radiation Therapy Targeted Therapy Herceptin (trastuzumab) Chemotherapy Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Taxotere (docetaxel)
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May 14, 2012 12:59AM Outfield wrote:

Archer, I agree it sounds like axillary webbing or cording.  The women on the Lymphedema board know a lot about it.  This is a great resource:


Sorry I do not know how to post so it appears as a link, but you could copy and paste to your browser.  I thought something horrible and unusual had happened to me until I found that website.  It's a very thoughtful site.  It is a rough thing to deal with, but it's also treatable. I think Nurserhonda is absolutely right.  Docs don't seem to know as much about this as they should.  But lymphedema therapists see it a lot.

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Jul 2, 2012 12:44PM rosiegeorge wrote:

I had surgery for a mastectomy last October with full reconstuction. I noticed what I thought was a tendon underneath my breast and making its way down to my ribs and stomach, I  consulted my breast nurse who said it was due to the fact that the skin which was pulled up to make the reconstruction was too tight, she didnt mention CORDING, this is the first time I have heard it. I am going to get onto her again and ask what can be done.

Thanks, I find the information in the forum very good.

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