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Friday, July 25, 2008 Denise, Community Member, asks

Q: after my mastectomy last year under my armpit is still swollen. Is this normal?

I had a mastectomy in April of 2007 with immediate reconstructive surgery.  I had my implant put in October of 2008.  My left side under my armpit, where your bra would be is still swollen as if I have water in there.  Will this ever go away?

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Answers (3)
PJ Hamel, Health Guide
7/25/08 4:07pm

Denise, sometimes the swelling takes a loonnnngggg time to dissipate. And sometimes it's not actually swelling, but some scar tissue, or a fold of skin, or something else. I'd say ask for an appointment with your plastic surgeon, or the surgeon who did the implants, to ascertain that it is indeed swelling, rather than some other issue. Also, ask if it might be lymphedema. And then, ask what can be done about it. If they say it'll eventually go away, try to pin them down as to how long; and ask if there's anything you can do in the meantime to hasten the process along. This is one of those times when you'll probably have to advocate for yourself. Good luck to you - PJH

Laurie Kingston, Health Guide
7/25/08 4:24pm

Hi Denise,

This sounds like lymphedema to me. There is so little info available about lymphedema and most of it has to do with arm lymphedema. Mine has always been truncal - in my chest, back and exactly where you describe.

This is the best article on the subject that I have been able to find:


Exercise, lymphatic massage and watching diet can all help. I know that many women swear by water aerobics. I find yoga helps.


Do ask your doctor about lymphedema (if the swelling doesn't go away soon) but don't be too put off if they don't have any advice for you. And if you want me to point me in the direction of other resources, please contact me. I would be happy to do so.

Take good care,




Angi, Community Member
7/26/08 2:50pm

Denise - Did they take any lymph nodes?  I have the same exact thing and it's been going on 3 1/2 years - but all my nodes were removed.  My arm is also often swollen a little bit, but it is because of lymphedema - my other arm/armpit does not swell at all, but when they did the mastectomy on that side they did not take any nodes.  lymphedema can be very tricky to control and can actually take years or even a lifetime just to do that.  Certain things will trigger the swelling - like hot tubs, flying without a compression sleeve, having blood or blood pressure drawn from the arm mmissing nodes, shaving with a razor blade, or infection ranging from bug bites just to name a few.

The best way to fight lymphedema is with a compression sleeve, a bio compression system, manual massage, and exercizes such as taking a nerf football; placing it under your arm and pumping or squeezing it - seeing a physical therapist that specializes in lymphedema can help customize an excercize plan and teach the massage technique to help keep lymphedema at bay.


If you did not have any nodes removed, then I would surely suggest asking your doctor what is causing it and how to get rid of it.


Best of luck to you!


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By Denise, Community Member— Last Modified: 02/17/14, First Published: 07/25/08