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Full axilary clearance after chemotherapy


Re: Full axilary clearance after chemotherapy

Hi Landygirl

Thanks for posting. It’s understandable you’ve been focusing on getting through your chemotherapy and have now got further questions.

Chemotherapy is given after surgery for primary breast cancer to destroy any cancer cells that may not have been removed and reduce the risk of cancer coming back in the future. Whilst we know this is a very effective way of destroying any cancer cells which may remain, it isn’t possible to be absolutely certain unless the tissue is examined under a microscope. So further surgery or sometimes radiotherapy to the axilla may be recommended. You may also be offered radiotherapy to the chest area if you didn’t have clear margins after the mastectomy.

When treatment for breast cancer has been completed it’s still possible for it to come back in the chest area (local recurrence) or in another part of the body. It is for this reason that all women are advised to be aware of any new or changing symptoms and to get them checked out by their treatment team or GP. You can read more about what to look out for on our website.

Although most breast cancers don’t come back, living with uncertainty about what might happen in the future can be difficult to adjust to. It may be helpful to have a chat to your breast care nurse and as Jaybro suggests you can contact her at any time.

You may be interested in our resources that are particularly for those who have come to the end of their main hospital treatment. These are known as our Moving forward services and include our Moving Forward Book and outside the current coronavirus situation our Moving Forward courses.  These provide information, support, and professional guidance on how to cope with, and adjust to, life after breast cancer treatment. However, we’ve had to take the difficult decision to suspend all our face-to-face services until the end of June 2020, following the latest government guidance regarding coronavirus.

Our mobile app Becca provides information, tips and inspiration to help you move forward. The easy-to-use cards give you bite-size information on everything from managing menopausal symptoms to strategies for coping with anxiety. Categories include diet, exercise, mindfulness and body image. You can also read personal stories from people like you who are adjusting to life beyond breast cancer treatment.

You can download Becca for free from Google Play and the App Store. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can use the online version.

Some people find it helpful to talk through their thoughts and feelings in more depth and if you think you might find this helpful your breast care nurse or GP might be able to refer you for a talking therapy.

You are always welcome to give us a call. Do call our Helpline if you would like to talk this through or have any further questions. Your call will be confidential, and the number is free from UK landlines and all mobile networks.

The number is 0808 800 6000 (Text relay prefix 18001).

Our opening hours are Monday to Friday 9am - 4pm and 9am -1pm on Saturday. Out of hours you can leave a message and we will call you back when we next open.

Please be aware that we will be closed on Monday 25 May due to the bank holiday.

Best wishes




Breast Cancer Now Nurse

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Re: Full axilary clearance after chemotherapy

Hi Landygirl

I’ll be very interested in the nurse’s response to your questions. I’ll just say that you can contact your breast care nurse at any time by phone or email. If your specific nurse is off duty/on leave, another in the team will always contact you - that’s what they’re here for. If you don’t have her contact details, ring the hospital and ask for them. You need that reassurance that you can contact her any time - including years after your treatment! I’m ringing mine tomorrow and my treatment finished almost a year ago.

All the best with the rest of your treatment,

Jan xx (another one without any lymph nodes and ‘poor’ margins)


Full axilary clearance after chemotherapy

I am about to finish chemotherapy, 6 cycles of Fec-T.  I am due to have a full clearance of my lymph nodes as the node tested when I had my mastectomy tested positive.  I know I should have asked the consultant at the time but why would this be done after chemotherapy?  Would the chemotherapy not have killed any cancer present?  Is the operation just routine and it will automatically be negative for cancer?

Also, I didn't have clear margins when I had the mastectomy but there is no way of taking away more tissue.  I was told to be extra careful and vigilant because the risks but what does that mean, am I at higher risk of further cancer?

I have been so focused on getting through the chemotherapy that I haven't thought about any of this until now and I don't have any appointments booked for ages to ask consultant or breast care nurses.