I just had a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction and Sentinel Lymph node detection. The area under my arm and in the armpit is so very sensitive it just makes me crazy. Is there anything or a bandage or anything that can ease that sensitivity? How long does this usually last?
Dear marcosmom: Sometimes, surgery can damage some nerve endings, leaving the nerve endings irritated. Very often, this will become better over time, the question is, how much time? There is wide variability. It is reasonable to try the pain relievers that have been prescribed or, with your doctor's okay, an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprophen. Give yourself 4-6 weeks from surgery and see where you are. If this is still a big problem, discuss with your doctor, you may need to try another type of medication that has been effective in treating nerve related pain (these can include anti-depressants and anti-convulsant medications).
it could go away soon or last a long time: irritated nerves are unpredictable. Meanwhile, taking an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen might help; some women I know have made a very small pillow out of satiny stuff and kept it under the arm to keep the skin from rubbing. There are some medications used for other neurological conditions that can help nerve pain, too.
I, too, had axillary dissection (1 positive sentinel node) with my lumpectomy. The tumor itself was 3 cm. but I had a 6-inch incision bec. they wanted to get clear margins. Actually, the axillary surgery bothered me a lot more than the breast surgery, which wasn't really that painful.
The surgeon explained that they did cut through a nerve to get to the 10 lymph nodes. Right after surgery, my upper underarm area & axilla were completely numb, except for a pinching "bee-sting-like" sensation whenever I stretched my arm. Stinging went away after about 2 weeks, but fluid buildup had to be drained under my arm twice after surgery.
But, trust me, the awful numb, uncomfortable sensation will go away after about a month. The underarm will be much easier to live with, although it will be still be numb. And I still get a weird sensation touching my underarm area, such as washing in the shower, although that area is completely numb. After 7 weeks now, I got quite used to the loss of sensation & usually don't think about it.
NOTE: I'm sure you've been advised re. avoiding infection at all costs to the affected arm, since you have no more lymph nodes to drain the infection--this is believed to be a major cause of lymphedema later on. Also, light exercise 1-2 weeks after surgery (with your onc's approval) will help a great deal and help with post-op swelling & draining.
I found that light SWIMMING-MOTION exercises worked best (breaststrokes, backstrokes, frogstrokes, maybe 3-5 strokes at a time. Good luck. Heidiho. ***@****
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