Post operative swelling

I had masectomy and node clearance for invasive lobular cancer just over 5 weeks ago and my upper arm and under the armpit is still sore and a bit swollen. Also it hurts right round to my back. In fact the whole area feels quite numb and strange.I had a seroma but that went down quite quickly. My oncologist and the breast care nurses dont seem very bothered. Has anyone else had this and did it settle eventually. I am worried that it is lymphodema or even that the cancer is still there. Rachel123

Hi Rachel,

I had my first mastectomy a year ago, and my second three weeks ago. The soreness and numbness are normal. They have to move nerves aside to remove the nodes etc.

My first mast site still feels a little odd in places. My recent op site feels numb around the back too. I only had a couple of nodes removed, so I can imagine having node clearance would certainly be likely to cause the numb tingly sensation.

My surgeon and bc nurse told me these feelings are very normal for some people and how much feeling you get back depends on the individual.

Good luck – it’s still early days!

Jacki x

dear Jacki
Thanks for your advice it has given me some reassurance. Sometimes worrying about problems on your own makes things seem worse.The trouble is with me I feel like I am making a fuss if I ask the breastcare nurse and my oncologist seemed very unsympathetic when I asked him the other week. Just one thing did you get any swelling down your arm or armpit as well?
Thanks for your help Rachel123

Hi Rachel,
Don’t worry - it’s ‘normal’, as they like to say. I had a lumpectomy and axial clearance about 2 months ago - no seroma worth mentioning, but it’s still all numb on the surface. Funny that I can still feel that it is swollen - and it seems to vary from day to day with some days feeling like there is a tight band under my arm, some days something large strapped there and some days pretty much ‘normal’ (by my standards, which are a little more exacting than the medical profession’s). I also was told it can take up to a year to return permanently to my standards, and may, in fact, never quite get there. Them’s the breaks, and better out than in.

By the way, I too think gloomy thoughts about lymphoedema on the more swollen days, but watch cuts, burns, strain etc. to that arm, keep up the gentle exercise, drink loads of water, juice, green/white tea etc. & be careful with wine - and we’re doing the best we can. No point in worrying about what we can’t affect.

Best wishes for the ‘trip’,

Hi Rachel

Breast Cancer Care have written a booklet called ‘Your operation and recovery’ which you may find hepful to read as it contains information about some of the symptoms you can expect following breast and axillary surgery, you can read it via the following link:

Please feel free to call our helpline for further information and advice on 0808 800 6000 which opens Mon-Fri 9am-5pm and Sat 9am-2pm.

Best wishes

Hi Rachel

I too have numbness and weird feelings after my mastectomy on 1st Feb this year and I had axillary clearance too and I can relate to the feelings or rather lack of. I also get a slight swelling/fluid build up at the end of my scar but my BC nurse said that tissue needs to re-form there and that could be why there is a slight swelling. I also think with the nerves they cut through it will take time to get feeling back and 5 weeks isn’t long really considering what a huge op it is.I also get numbness around my shoulder blade on that side. It feels tender when I press there so guess still recovering.

Just wanted to let you know I think its normal…!!! Keep up with those exercises as they will help reduce the fluid.

Take care and best wishes

P x

hi rachel,

im just confirming what all the other ladies say, i have had lumpectomy and masectormy and that was about six weeks ago, swelling is normal, and numbness ( i have both) which probably means i have lymphodema. but i would rather have that, than what was there before.

you need to make sure you keep up with excercises they really do help. i know all this is not nice, but im sure well learn to live with it. god bless and hope you have a quick recovery.

Hi Rachel,

In answer to your question, I’m not sure if I got any swelling in my armpit first time, haven’t this time round, but it felt numb there too.

As has been said, keep up with the exercises several times a day and keep an eye on the arm swelling. That could turn into lymphodema, so get it checked if you are concerned. Sorry your medical staff aren’t that supportive – they’ve seen it so many times that they forget it’s a first for us, and forget their bedside manner! Like to see how they’d deal with it! My consultant was going on about me needing to wear my prosthesis after my first mast. I said, ‘Have you ever tried wearing the thing?’ That shut him up!!

Do take care – you are not alone!!

Jacki xx

To everyone who replied to my question thanks very much for your help and advice it has made me realise that what I am experiencing seems to be the same for other people. You have all really reassured me. Thanks very much. Rachel