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Fluid build up after Mastectomy
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Fluid build up after Mastectomy

My sister had a Modified Radical Mastectomy on 12/05/02. She has continuous fluid build up under her arm. Her Doctor told her that he sometimes has to drain the fluid off two or three times. She has so far had fluid drained off four times. The first time it was blood tinged and now it is yellow. The Doctor has not given her a reason for this fluid build up. She is going for a fifth time to have it drained off tomorrow. Can you please give me a reason for this fluid build up and when it might stop as it is very painful for her? I know that they did have to cut some nerves while doing this procedure and has caused great pain in her arm. How long should this last and is cutting the nerves the reason for this pain? Thank you for your time.
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Dear TearyThunder:  It is likely that the pain she is experiencing could be from the severed nerves but pressure from fluid can also be a reason for discomfort. Fluid can form as a result of trauma to the area and disruption of the normal tissue drainage system. Did your sister have a drain after the mastectomy?  Sometimes a person may need to have a drain placed until the fluid collection subsides.  She should discuss this with her physician.
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I had the same problem with fluid buildup under my arm after a lumpectomy and axillary node dissection.  I had a drain in and the buildup occurred after the drain was removed.  I had to go in about 5-6 times to have the fluid drained before it finally stopped being a problem.  It can be extremely uncomfortable since it forces you to hold your arm in a position that isn't relaxed.
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The drainage is a normal part of the healing process.  If she does not have the JP drain stuck in her chest than she should consider herself lucky.  I had a bilateral about 3 months ago and had to wear these drain tubes in my chest for 2 weeks.  The pain she is experiencing is a result of both damaged nerves and muscles.  My pain was so severe that I needed prescription pain killers for about a month after surgery.  Physical therapy and massage therapy have given me back my range of motion and made life almost painful.  I suggest everyone who has had a mastectomy invest in these therapies.  I wish the best of luck to her.
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