8 doctors weighed in:

Why can arm swelling and pain happen after breast cancer surgery?

8 doctors weighed in
Dr. Barry Rosen
Surgery
3 doctors agree

In brief: Lymphedema

An essential part of breast cancer staging is the removal of some of the lymph nodes under the armpit.
The lymphatic system's job includes draining tissue fluid and bringing it back into the circulation. Lymph node removal short-circuits this process leading to the risk of chronic swelling, or lymphedema. The less nodes removed, the lower the risk.

In brief: Lymphedema

An essential part of breast cancer staging is the removal of some of the lymph nodes under the armpit.
The lymphatic system's job includes draining tissue fluid and bringing it back into the circulation. Lymph node removal short-circuits this process leading to the risk of chronic swelling, or lymphedema. The less nodes removed, the lower the risk.
Dr. Barry Rosen
Dr. Barry Rosen
Thank
2 comments
Dr. Barry Rosen
Sentinel lymph node biopsy has reduced this risk to under 5%, compared to rates of 25% in the past.
Dr. Sean Canale
In select patients, even a positive sentinel node may not mandate completion axillary node dissection. Also, with modern chemotherapy, even patients with gross positive node disease up front may be converted to node negative status with neoadjuvant therapy and spared axillary node dissection given a negative sentinel node following neoadjuvant therapy.
Dr. Regina Hampton
Breast Surgery
1 doctor agrees

In brief: Lymphedema

When lymph nodes are removed from under the arm during breast cancer surgery, you are at risk for developing lymphedema (swelling).
The amount of lymphedema varies and can depend on the number of lymph nodes removed. Lymphedema can be treated and controlled. I recommend you ask your surgeon to refer you to a lymphedema clinic for evaluation.

In brief: Lymphedema

When lymph nodes are removed from under the arm during breast cancer surgery, you are at risk for developing lymphedema (swelling).
The amount of lymphedema varies and can depend on the number of lymph nodes removed. Lymphedema can be treated and controlled. I recommend you ask your surgeon to refer you to a lymphedema clinic for evaluation.
Dr. Regina Hampton
Dr. Regina Hampton
Thank
Dr. Ly Phan
Surgery
1 doctor agrees

In brief: Lymph node drainage

Usually breast cancer surgery associate with lymph harvesting.
Depending on how extensive the lymph node dissection is, you may experience pain and swelling of the arm and shoulder with extensive lymph node dissection.

In brief: Lymph node drainage

Usually breast cancer surgery associate with lymph harvesting.
Depending on how extensive the lymph node dissection is, you may experience pain and swelling of the arm and shoulder with extensive lymph node dissection.
Dr. Ly Phan
Dr. Ly Phan
Thank
Get help from a real doctor now
Dr. Peter Kurzweil
Board Certified, Internal Medicine
46 years in practice
16M people helped
Continue
108,000 doctors available
Read more answers from doctors