Right after the surgery you will probably feel weak, and your shoulder area will feel sore and stiff for a few days. It may be hard to move your arm and shoulder in all directions. Your doctor or physiotherapist will teach you some arm exercises. You now have a higher chance of swelling in the affected arm. This is called lymphedema. From now on, you will have to be careful when using your arm.
You will have a scar under your arm that will fade over time. You may also notice a hollow area in your armpit. It may also feel like you have a lump in your armpit. You may lose some feeling under your arm, or the arm may have a tingling or burning feeling. The loss of feeling may last only a little while, or it may last the rest of your life.
You will probably be able to go back to work or your normal routine in 3 to 6 weeks. This depends on the type of work you do and any further treatment. If cancer was found in the lymph nodes, you will probably need more treatment.
An axillary node dissection may be done at the same time as other breast cancer surgeries. If this is the case, your recovery may be different.
When you find out that you have cancer, you may feel many emotions and may need some help coping. Seek out family, friends, and counsellors for support. You also can do things at home to make yourself feel better while you go through treatment. Call the Canadian Cancer Society (1-888-939-3333) or visit its website at www.cancer.ca for more information.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter L189 in the search box to learn more about "Axillary Lymph Node Dissection: What to Expect at Home".
Current as of: May 12, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Laura S. Dominici, MD - Surgery, General Surgery, Oncology
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