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Other Possible Concerns After Surgery

What is a seroma?

  • After your drain is removed, a pouch of body fluid may collect in the surgical area. This is called a "seroma."
  • The pouch of fluid is caused by continued drainage into the surgical site.
  • A seroma is common and is not an emergency.
  • Seromas happen a few weeks after surgery and may take several weeks to disappear.
  • If you think you have developed a seroma and it is large and uncomfortable, or you are concerned, call the Melanoma Site Nursing Team at 416-480-5000.

What is axillary web syndrome (cording)?

  • Cording can happen after having your lymph nodes removed from your armpit.
  • It looks like a tight cord (similar to a guitar string) that appears in the armpit and may be felt or seen all the way down your arm into your elbow or hand.
  • It may cause tightness and make it more difficult to raise up your arm.
  • It can develop as early as 1 week after surgery.
  • It is not an emergency.
  • Doing your arm exercises and stretching will help it go away.
  • Your occupational therapist or physiotherapist will look for cording at your follow-up appointment.

What is lymphedema?

  • Lymphedema is swelling caused by lymphatic fluid that collects in your chest or arm.
  • Lymphedema is different than a seroma or the swelling that might happen right after surgery IN YOUR ARMPIT.
  • Lymphedema can develop weeks, months, or years after your surgery.
  • Lymphedema can be managed but should be reported to the Melanoma Site Nursing Team.
  • Most people do not develop lymphedema after surgery but it is important to be aware that having lymph nodes removed may increase your risk of it happening.
  • The chance of lymphedema after an axillary node dissection is 15 percent (15 patients out of every 100).

What are the early signs of lymphedema?

  • Feelings of heaviness, aching or tingling
  • Feelings of tightness in clothing, jewelry, watches
  • A feeling of heat
  • Swelling

Tips to help reduce your risk of lymphedema

  • Let your health team know if you develop swelling that does not go away.
  • Maintain a heathy weight. Obesity is a major risk factor for developing lymphedema.
  • Try to avoid bloodwork (or blood being withdrawn) on the side you had surgery.
  • Protect your skin on the side you had surgery. Apply antibiotic cream to cuts, scratches and insect bites.

Will removing my lymph nodes affect my body's ability to fight off infection?

  • Although 15 to 25 lymph nodes are often removed with your surgery, your body has many lymph nodes left to filter your blood and fight off infections.
  • Immunizations (vaccinations) are safe after your surgery.

How do I learn more about lymphedema?

  • There is a weekly lymphedema information class for patients and families.
  • The class is held every Thursday from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and is located at the PEARL (Patient Education and Research Learning centre) in the Odette Cancer Centre on the 1st floor beside the main Reception Desk.
  • Please call 416-480-4534 for more information about the class and to register.

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