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My mastectomy surgery

Other possible concerns after surgery

What is a seroma?

  • You may get a pouch of body fluid under or around where you had surgery after your drain has been removed.
  • This pouch of fluid is caused by continued drainage into the surgical site. This is called a seroma.
  • A seroma is common and is not an emergency.
  • Many surgeons feel that a seroma may help to make the wound look better during healing because it gently stretches the scar tissue around the surgical area.
  • If you think you have developed a seroma and you are concerned, call the Breast Site Nursing Team at 416-480-5000, extension 81007.

What is axillary web syndrome (cording)?

  • Axillary web syndrome can be caused by having your lymph nodes removed.
  • 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 your arm up.
  • It can develop as early as one 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 fluid collecting in your arm and your chest.
  • The type of swelling that occurs with lymphedema is different than a seroma or the swelling that might happen right after surgery.
  • Lymphedema can develop weeks, months, or years following your surgery.
  • Lymphedema is manageable but should be reported to the Breast Site Nursing Team as soon as possible.
  • Most patients do not develop lymphedema but it is important to be aware that having lymph nodes removed may increase your risk.
  • The chance of lymphedema after an axillary node dissection is 15 percent. The chance of lymphedema after a sentinel node biopsy is 1 to 2 percent.

What are the early signs of lymphedema?

  • Feelings of heaviness, aching or tingling in the chest or arm on the side you had surgery.
  • Feelings of tightness in clothing, jewelry and watches.
  • A feeling of heat.
  • Visible swelling.

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How do I learn more about lymphedema?


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