axillary clearance

I’m going in for a full clearance of my lymph nodes on Wedensday morning…I’m in a real panic about it…can anyone who’s had this done tell me how long they were kept in hospital…I know everyone’s different…in an ideal world I’d love to be out the same day…would any of you think that’s possible? My son’s g/f is a staff nurse and would be at home with me for a few days…

Did anyone find the full clearance to be easier than they expected…I’m a real wimp when it comes to hospitals and surgery…my first ever surgery was 3 weeks ago when I had my lump taken out…ty

Linda x

I had a lumpectomy and SNB just over 2 weeks ago, had a bad time, 2 out of 5 of the lymph nodes were cancerous so I also have to go back on the 19th Nov for full axillary clearance. When I went to hospital last week I was told that I should be in hospital about 4 days due to drains, but they might let me home early if I wish. Don’t know much else, so I would also like to hear what others have experienced!

Helen x

I had lumpectomy and full aux clearance and was home two days later.I did ask to go home and had no trouble ‘escapeing’ I had to return to have the wound drained but that only took a few minutes and was relatively painless.I had a lot of fluid so had to keep going back for over a month.Other than that,apart from a bit of numbness under my arm, I felt as though I hadn’t had an op! The worst bit for me was the anesthetio - but as you’ve had one op you’d already know your reaction to it!

Josie x

Thanks Helen and Josie…sorry you’ve to go back for the full clearance Helen…I suppose I’ll need to wait and see how it goes…I’m hoping on getting the go ahead to fly to Florida just over 4 weeks after my surgery…fingers crossed

Hi girls

I had total clearance at the same time as the mastectomy and was in hospital for 5 days in total. I was quite sore under the arm for a few weeks, and had some swelling. But I did my arm exercises regularly and avoided any stiffness or shoulder pain, which can be a problem. My underarm still gets a bit sore from time to time, but that is probably more down to general activities -, I swim a lot - . You do have to be extra careful with regard to lymphoedema once you’ve had total axillary clearance and I have developed some lymphoedema on my chest wall and under the arm. As to flying in 4 weeks time, I would get advice from the nurses/consultant. They may advise you to wear a precautionary arm sleeve to prevent fluid build up. ANd ask your GP to giv eyou a precautionary prescription for antibiotics, just in case you get a bite or scratch whilst away. Good luck and hope all goes well.


My radio also included the underarm area - which put me at high risk of lymphodema.Thankfully I haven’t had a problem with it.I do quite manual work,which includes heavy lifting.I cut my finger a few months after chemo.and considering it was a clean cut it was painful and wasn’t healing at all.So after two days I took myself down to my nearest A&E They gave me a two week course of strong antibiotics which cleared it up.Take care of your arm but dont worry unduly- there are more of us without lymphodema than with it! It’s a good idea of Birgit to take some antibiotics with you when you fly to Florida next month.Will be thinking of you on Wednesday!

Josie x

Hi Josie

Once you have had radiotherapy to the axilla and/or an axillary clearance, you are always at risk of developing lymphoedema (in fact the average time for developing it is about three and a half years’ after treatment), so do take care, won’t you?



I had full axillary clearance a month before mastectomy. I was in hospital (in the day care unit) for one night and came home the following day with drains, which I had for 10 days as I seemed to make a lot of serous fluid!

When the drains were removed I developed a seroma which I had to have syringed off a few times before it settled down.

I was a little uncomfortable the night of the operation and had a mild painkiller, other than stiffness and numbness in the affected arm, for which you will be given an exercise regime, it was all pretty straightforward.

I don’t think the op is a long one. Lymph glands are contained in pads of fat in the underarm (I was told), and are not picked out individually, but rather en-masse. I had a cup of tea and a sandwich shortly after coming round, and felt fine except for a bit of a sore throat, presumably from the oxygen tube they put down.

Good luck, I’m sure you’ll be fine


Hi Bahons,Thanks for the info! Luckily I’m coming up to 5yrs.I know theres still a risk of lymphodema but I haven’t let it get in the way.Physically I’m a strong,lean person and have never had any problems fetching and carrying.But don’t get me wrong- If my arm started to ache I’d stop straight away!

Josie x

Hi Josie

Sorry about that - I misunderstood your post and thought your surgery had been more recent.

Very pleased to hear that you have passed the ‘peak’ time for occurrence and still have no problems. Long may it continue!



Thankyou! xx

Hi Linds and Helen

I also had total clearance but at the same time as WLE in June. They removed 24 nodes. To be honest it was fine. I had no drain and have had no problems with fluid etc. The morning after surgery I started the exercises and although it was a little sore I regained full mobility in a few days. It was a bit numb to begin with but that has now gone, just feels a bit ‘odd’ sometimes.

You need to speak to the surgeon about flying to Florida though. I was told not to fly for 6 weeks and so exactly 6 weeks later flew to Spain. My hand did become slightly puffy and this has only just gone. So maybe you will need a sleeve in order to avoid problems.

I’m sure you’ll be fine. Let us know how you get on & good luck.


Hi Scotsmomma
I noticed your posting about Florida. We are hoping to go in 2009.
Can you tell me which insurance company you have used if you have used one.
The reason i ask is my husband had a heart by-pass 4 years ago.
Although he did not have a heart attack previously his premium is always loaded.
I assume breast cancer patients are treated in a similar way.
We usually go every 2 years and next year is our 2 year Florida hol.
Thanks… any info on any suitable travel insurance companies would be great
Enjoy your holiday

Hi Linda, I had full axillary clearance (14 nodes) with WLE in July. I had no drain and had to have a seroma drained a couple of times. At the time I thought my right arm would never be the same again, but 3 and a half months on I have the full range of movement back and can’t really notice any difference between my arms. I quickly developed strength and increased co-ordination in my other arm (I am right handed so I didn’t use my left arm much before!) and thankfully haven’t suffered with lymphoedema (touch wood.)
Would just say though … avoid burning your affected hand on the iron/oven, I “forgot” and was careless a couple of times, got burns that broke the skin.
I got some bracelets from the Lymphoedema Support Network which you can wear when in hospital at any time in the future. I would always wear these if going to hospital. I have found that in A and E/on general wards even if you make the nurses aware that you have no lymph nodes on the affected side, they still try to take blood pressure/blood samples on tha side. I would hate to be sleeping and for a nurse to take my observations in the night using my operation side.
In hospital on Sunday there were five attempts to take BP onmy right arm even though I had made the nurses aware they couldn’t use that side.
Good luck,
Irina xx

Hi, just wondering if the lymph nodes are taken away which I assume are for draining fluid, does something else take over the work ? Otherwise why doesnt everyone get lymphoedema ?

My surgeon said that the body finds new ways and the fluid drains. Amazing but not as good as the lymph nodes themselves so it can get overloaded that’s where the problems start.


Hi there

Horsemad, some people’s lymphatic systems just cope better than others with having the lymph nodes removed. It also depends on how many you had to start with and how many were taken away - for some people the remaining lymphatic system can cope indefinitely with the load, for some it gets overloaded almost straight away and for others it copes for a while (sometimes years) and then fails.

Although there are some other factors, in addition to surgery, which are known to raise the risk of developing lymphoedema, there doesn’t yet seem to be a surefire way of predicting who is most likely to get it.

My sympathies with the problems with the nurses taking BP on your bad arm, Irina. Roll on the day when the workings of the lymphatic system gets taught properly to all ‘health professionals’.



I had a mastectomy and axillary node clearance 10 days ago - generally it wasnt as awful as I had expected. The scar across my chest is really neat but the skin at the end of the scar under my arm is really bunched up and restrictive and movement of my arm is very limited by soreness in my armpit. How did other people find it?

My scar is hardly noticably and I’ve never had mobility problems- or pain really.There is quite a dent under that arm compared to the other side and my under arm is still numb.