Vein damage from chemo

I have a vein which has hardened after chemo and is painful when I try to straighten my arm. My onc referred me to the physiotherapist who couldn’t help because it wasn’t muscular or lymphatic damage. He said it would heal in time.

Has anyone else had experience of this? Does it eventually get better?


Hi Lilac,

Yes, I had a damaged vein after my EC/Tax reqime July - Dec 2008. I think it was the epirubicin that did it for me - I ended up with a tight vein that ran up to the inside of my elbow which pulled and hurt if I tried to twist my arm too far outwards.

I didn’t do any specific exercises other than trying to use my arm as normally as possible, and over time the tightness has virtually gone. If I twist my arm now, I can still see a small area pulling right by the elbow, but otherwise it looks and feels normal, and has done for a few months now. Based on my limited experience I would say that it will get better on its own, but may take quite a time.

Best of luck,

Hi Lilac
I to have damaged veins after chemo. My arm looks like a patchwork quilt. I last had chemo administered in that arm in july.
When I asked the oncologist about it he said it could take upto a year to get better.
It isn’t all that painful anymore it just looks awful.
I started swimming after I finished my chemo and I think this helped with the pain, as like you it was sore when I stretched my arm. The oncologist said swimming is the best form exercise to help it.
Chris xx

Thanks J and Chris - that was the reassurance I needed. Love swimming and miss it - will definitely take it up again when chemo and radiotherapy over
Lilac x

My arm was damaged recently too, so thanks for your posts guys. They told me it would take time to heal. Suppose it is lucky for me that it is my left arm and I am right handed.


I had one of my veins with a simialr problem which happened with FEC2. Have just had number 6 so about 12 weeks since it happened and only realised on reading your posts that it no longer hurts or feels tight. I can see a slight depression but only in a bright light and if I stretch my arm out straight. Hope you find the same soon.

Hi Lilac
I had FEC 2 years ago and the epirubicin really did my veins in. Mine also looked like a patchwork quilt! However it has eased up over time and I have no problems now with flexibility, this has come back naturally with no particular exercise. My veins are still quite hard although an awful lot better than when I finished when they could barely find a ‘good’ vein to use.

Hi Ladies,

I had a very sore arm after cycle 2 & 3 of FEC. I had a Port - a-cath put into my chest this week as they were really struggling to find a good vein to use! Also have to have herceptin for a year, so took the plunge. The used the port on Wednesday for herceptin and yesterday for chemo 4, which is now Docetaxel. It was so much easier, although the chemo nurse said that it may still affect the sore veins in my arm as it travels around the whole body, but not to the same extent.
I have the tightness and pain when I try to straighten my arm, so thanks for your feedback, it’s great that this will ease with time. Hang on in there. Karen xx

My veins were fried by chemo (FEC & 1 Tax). Thankfully all better now - it’s 2 years since I finished chemo. But I still have an indentation in that arm and only the most skilled senior phlebotomist can get blood out of it. I had a complete donkey of a nurse make a huge mess of that arm recently eventhough I’d told her my veins were possibly iffy. Just a warning for the years ahead!

Hi Lilac
I had the same problem with veins after FEC 3. I had a red patch where the veins had hardened which was quite tender to touch and I couldn’t straighten my arm. Since I had my PICC line put in it has got a bit better, not so tender as it was and I can almost straighten the arm. But it still looks a bit red and the veins feel a bit hard. My chemo nurses told me that it will heal on its own but can take quite a while before it’s properly right. It’s that horrible red stuff that does it!


I had a leak with Epirubicin too which fried a vein in my right arm (the BC affected side). I had my chemo before surgery and no-one told me I should always use the “good” side. Consequently when I had surgery it flared up again and my radiotherapy was delayed until I could restore movement enough to get into the right positon.

That was a year past September and I still get pain and discolouration in my arm where the damage is. It’s more of an inconvenience than anything and makes me a bit self conscious wearing short sleeves. I’m happy that I got the mobility back since I’m right handed. A wee word of caution to anyone just starting out. Make sure your medical team always use the correct arm.

Jan xx

i had cording in my right side after my first cancer and was just the effects of surgery.

when i got chemo (e-cmf) for the cancer in the other side they gave my 1st chemo (epi) in the original side and after about 10 days my veins were knackered…

had subsequent chemos in the most recently affected side and again about 10 days later and for a number of months afterwards i had continuous pain.

now i only get it when i turn my arm in certain ways but i have ibuprofen gel which i have to use fairly regularly but it does help.

iv been seen by physio in the past but told it will heal by itself.

the actual veins may never recover and every time i give blood its excruciating and nearly makes me cry… my last chemo was november last year so it can take a while to get better.


Just seeing how many of you are posting about this makes me cross at our medical teams! If it happens so regularly after the FEC, than why aren’t they doing something about it? I haven’t had any trouble with the FEC since having the picc line put in, but am annoyed they didn’t sort that out from the start to save me all these problems.

When I went for my picc line the nurses said that they would always reccommnend a picc when having the FEC. Too late for my poor left arm though!

Not only did they leave me with a painful wrist and arm, but I ended up with 2 lots of blood clots after the trauma of the chemo.

(Sorry about the rant!)

Lone (Kulakatz)

i had terrible arm troubles when i did fec (I finished in Feb this year). Anyway, my arm is much more back to normal now, it’s even easier to get a blood sample out now!

I did lots of exercises with my arm, as my onc said how important it was to keep moving. I did the exercises that are recommended after a mast.
hope this helps

Can I just say, Lilac, how AMAZING you look, without hair! If I looked like that, I’d be proud to walk around hat/scarf/wig free!

I have trouble with my arm, phlebitus, which is tight and pulling. I’m just hoping it holds out for my last 2 FEC.

Jo X

I’ve also had problems with phlebitis. Had a picc fitted but ended up with a DVT and now have to have daily Clexane jab to bust the clot in my arm. Ho hum! Still - last FEC due on 22 December so hopefully things will improve after that.

Jo - I love your hat.

Jan x

Thanks Jan! I hate it which is why I’ve changed my pic! They are comfy but…

You ALSO look gorgeous without hair!

I’ve got 2 chemo left and really don’t want a line in. How’ve you found it? And what were the symptoms you noticed for the DVT?


Hi Jo, well, the most obvious symptom was the discomfort. As a nurse, I knew that it shouldn’t be painful. I’d only had the darned thing in for a couple of weeks but my Mac nurse decided it should come out and get the arm scanned which was when they spotted the DVT. That has been as scary as the cancer diagnosis. I have to have the Clexane for 3 months and hopefully that will be the end of it.

I’ve found the chemo itself pretty gruelling. It knocks me off for about a week afterwards - I just curl up in bed and want to be left alone. As my last one is on 22 Dec, Christmas is going to be a bit of a non-event until at least 27/28th. Darling husbie (who is a SAINT) will be waiting on me hand and foot as per. The only positive is that it is the LAST ONE (hooray) then rads in January then hopefully back to work.

I went to a BC support meeting recently and there were women there who were sailing through chemo with/without a picc, and experiencing little or no side effects at all. Just the bloody luck of the draw I guess.

Your wig also looks fab - I have a wig which is really nice but tend to wear it only when I go out so that I don’t frighten the horses or small children! It also keeps my head warm under a hat in this freezing weather!

Jan x

Jo, I’ve just been to your website - brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. What a girl!

Jan x

Thank you Jo - you just made my day! Can u send me a link to your website please?
Jan - dvtt sounds rough. And I wonder if anyone really sails through chemo. Sometimes I let people think it’s easier than it is because I don’t think they want to hear the truth and I don’t want to be a complainer. It’s been a surprise to see who can handle it and who can’t.
Lilac x