Is my shoulder impingement related to removal of sentinal node?

Hi all

I had a mastectomy nearly 5 years ago now.  In the last few months I started to get shoulder pain.  I’ve had physio and have also been to the GP to rule out any return of the cancer.  No scans were taken, but the GP assured me that the nature of the pain indicated a shoulder impingement (so both he and the physio agreed).

I wanted to try accupuncture as well as physio, but while I was chatting to the accupuncturist, I remembered that I can’t have any needles on the affected side!!  So she treated the other side and treated me for relaxation, which was still lovely!  

I said to her that I would check out whether it was ok for me to have the treatment on that side (after reading loads of stuff on the net, I can confirm that it’s probably safer if I don’t).  In my search, I saw that lots of woman have suffered with frozen shoulder since having lymph nodes removed, some months/years later.  I can’t find anything linking a shoulder impingment to mastectomy/lymph node removal, but could there be a link?  Should impingement and frozen shoulder are very similar issues (I think).  Shoulder impingement is very common in people of my age (48) apparently, but I cannot think of what could have caused it, other than carrying heavy shopping bags!  The pain is interfering with work slightly, but it’s at its worst at night - I’m having to take a neurofen each night just to get a full night’s sleep now.  I am so tired everyday due to lack of sleep and I don’t want to develop an addiction to pain relief!!

Is anyone else affected by this at all?


I also have shoulder issues which can be worse at night, on the same side as op WLE & SNB, however, it was there before the op, although not as persistent. I have seen that shoulder problems can be linked to breast & node surgery.
Apols if you’ve tried this already, but I’ve found that supporting my L arm on a pillow when lying on my right side, does help at night.
ann x

Hi I had a bad shoulder (not the same side as my mastectomy or node clearance) for months which started interfering with my sleep and ability to to do ordinary things with my arm. I eventually went to the GP who referred me for physio on the NHS. At my 1st appointment the physio diagnosed a shoulder impingement and gave me exercises to do for two weeks & then return. They made me worse and before my next physio appointment I went back to my GP. I said I felt worse snd she said I needed a scan to get a ‘proper’ diagnosis. As soon as I had an MRI it was found to be a frozen shoulder and exercises for a shoulder impingement are not suitable for a frozen shoulder. I had a steroid injection guided by a scan to get it in the right place. Within 2 weeks all the pain had gone. That was 6 weeks ago.
My recommendation is get a scan done so you know for sure what the problem is. You slso need to rule out anything cancer related. Your GP cannot rule out secondaries without a scan. Your GP should refer you for a shoulder MRI ASAP, especially with your history. Tell them your sleep is now being affected and you are in pain. They should take you seriously.
I’m not sure that frozen shoulders or shoulder impingements are related to breast cancer but prob more related to age. I put the theory to my consultant that I had problems with the shoulder on my ‘good’ side as I’d over used it while my mastectomy snd DIEP was healing. He said it was more likely just something that happens
Good luck
Baz x

I had bilateral frozen shoulders three months after finishing rads (after surgery and snb). It took me months to get it properly diagnosed - it just felt like really painful upper arms and shoulders which were agony if I reached for anything. 


It it didn’t occur to me that it could be related to the BC, but the orthopaedic surgeon who diagnosed it suspects it is. Apparently they don’t know what causes frozen shoulder but it’s more common after surgery or other trauma as it’s a sort of auto immune response when your body lays down scar tissue in the shoulder capsule. And it can therefore be on the other side to your treatment side. My oncologist agreed. 


Once I’d got it diagnosed (MRI) the steroid injection helped hugely. As others have said, although the symptoms are similar to shoulder impingement the treatment is very different so do get it diagnosed as early as you can. 


Im on a slow recovery - apparently it can take up to two years to go!