TNBC: Pain in armpit, how do I ensure it's not cancer coming back?

Posted by maryk65 @maryk65, Jul 12, 2022

I am 6 month survivor of TNBC. I had chemo, lumpectomy and radiation. All my biopsies were negative. I’ve been having pain in my armpit and area of tenderness near armpit. They did diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound and did not see anything suspicious. I have dense breasts and my cancer did not show up on mammogram. I’d like MRI every 6 months but my doctor won’t do that. I’m terrified this tenderness is recurrence. Any advice appreciated!

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Im feeling the same and I had lymph removal only in my left breast but both are sore and its been over a year since surgery

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I am 9 year survivor and have experienced the same pain on armpit that I attribute to lymphedema. I had lymph nodes removed and radiation after surgery. It usually flares up when o use my arm a lot and hot weather aggravates it. Massaging the area very lightly will help . I attended a lymphedema clinic when I first experienced this and it helped immensely. Sometimes I wear a compression camisole that helps displace the lymph fluid build up.

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There is also something called lymphatic cording. Thin little cords form and pull. Most doctors do not know what it is and some PT clinics don’t know because they don’t have a specialist in lymphedema or breast cancer. I went to a PT lymphedema specialist in the hospital as an outpatient. They said they had to break up scar tissue and that I had a lot more “cording” than I realized. Lots of exercise involved. Hope it’s as simple as that and be persistent about being evaluated for lymphatic cording. It’s a real thing.

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There are a lot of great ideas here! I would like to add one more. Because you have had a lymph node dissection, you do have a higher risk for local inflammation under your arm. I now get a sore inflamed lymph node under my arm every time I have a little allergy. I also get a little lymphedema pretty often.
Is this tenderness constant or does it come and go? Is there swelling? Final question, lol, does anything make it better?

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@auntieoakley

There are a lot of great ideas here! I would like to add one more. Because you have had a lymph node dissection, you do have a higher risk for local inflammation under your arm. I now get a sore inflamed lymph node under my arm every time I have a little allergy. I also get a little lymphedema pretty often.
Is this tenderness constant or does it come and go? Is there swelling? Final question, lol, does anything make it better?

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The pain comes and goes and I haven’t noticed any swelling. The tenderness is always there.

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Hello,
I am 4 months out of surgery double mastectomy and sentinel dissection (23 lymph nodes removed)
I went to lymph PT after 30 days and the cording issue was what we work in regularly.
Many at home exercises and massaging the cords during PT.
The Mayo PT specializes with breast cancer so understands the limitations and also educates along the way on lymphedema.
I will continue for another couple of months.
I feel better after every appt.
But, I also understand I will have some type of long term issues.
All good – hope you release your pain.

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@maryk65

The pain comes and goes and I haven’t noticed any swelling. The tenderness is always there.

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I would say that a referral to a PT with breast cancer specialty, like the others have mentioned is probably a good idea. Sometimes the people who deal with our bodies in the aftermath can tell us more. The doctors are focused on saving our lives (admittedly important), but the different types of therapists are really good at identifying and helping us with the issues we now live with. Do you live in area where you are likely to find this type of PT?

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@auntieoakley

I would say that a referral to a PT with breast cancer specialty, like the others have mentioned is probably a good idea. Sometimes the people who deal with our bodies in the aftermath can tell us more. The doctors are focused on saving our lives (admittedly important), but the different types of therapists are really good at identifying and helping us with the issues we now live with. Do you live in area where you are likely to find this type of PT?

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I’ll have to ask my doctor about this. I had sentinel nodes removed. I didn’t know there would be pain afterwards.

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@maryk65

I’ll have to ask my doctor about this. I had sentinel nodes removed. I didn’t know there would be pain afterwards.

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Hi @maryk65,
I can understand the wish for increased surveillance and your requesting an MRI every 6 months. Keep in mind that more is not always better. Frequent MRIs may not be beneficial and may do more harm than good, not to mention scanxiety.

Have you talked to your cancer care team about the pain in your armpit and what may be the cause? I also encourage you to tell them about your fears about recurrence? That is real! And they may be able to explain in more detail how they are watching with you, what to report and what is normal. Open communication really helps. How are you doing today?

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Thank you for your message. I’m doing ok. I did contact the surgeon who did lumpectomy but she was busy so I had to see PA. They did mammogram and ultrasound where the pain was and didn’t see anything. The radiologist told me MRI is better than mammogram which didn’t help my anxiety. My oncologist left and now I am waiting to see new oncologist in September. I’ve just been trying not to think about it.

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