Is it normal that after one year and a half after a lumpectomy, my breast still feels very tender to the touch, and sometimes even sharp pains?

Topic Tags:  
Topic Tags:  
Answer Summary
Expert Answers

BethDupreeMD (Physician - Surgery - Breast (Verified) ) - 02 / 24 / 2013

Any surgery creates changes in our body that requires time to heal. The initial phase of healing occurs in the first six weeks when collagen is being deposited and created. Then from six weeks to six months the collagen remodels to its eventual final healed state. After a lumpectomy, we typically begin radiation therapy within a few weeks to months, therefore it occurs during the six-month time frame of healing. Radiation therapy stops fast dividing cells from dividing thereby halting the growth of any cancer cells. It also affects the normal cells of the breast as well. There are many changes that take place in the breast and every breast reacts differently. Breast size, fat content, ptosis (droopiness), skin type and density of the breast can all influence the final outcome.

The breast will often retain fluid after radiation therapy, and may experience increased swelling or a sense of fullness. (Women often report increase aching when a low-pressure weather system is rolling in!) Typically the radiated breast will not change in size with weight gain or loss, as the non-radiated breast will do. So the tenderness and the sharp pains are very normal and should not be a concern. If a lump is felt in the breast after radiation therapy it should be brought to the attention of the breast surgeon.
Shared Experiences

member1353 (Caregiver) - 03 / 02 / 2013

A very common long-term effect of breast radiotherapy is development of a condition called "breast lymphedema" or "breast edema". This condition can result from the removal of one or more lymph nodes from the breast, which may impair the drainage path for lymphatic fluid from the breast. Radiation of the breast can further impair lymphatic drainage by causing fibrosis of the breast tissue, prevention of regeneration of the breast lymphatic network and functional changes in the autonomous lymph pumping in the lymph vessels.

When the breast skin becomes engorged with lymphatic fluid the breast can swell, become distorted and become tender. Long-standing lymphatic fluid (lymph stasis) puts the breast at risk for infection, often referred to as "delayed breast cellulitis". If not drained for a long length of time, skin changes begin to occur, resulting in proliferation of fat cells, fibrosis and inflammation, and ultimately hardening of the skin.

You should seek a referral from your primary care physician, radiologist or surgeon to a qualified lymphedema therapist for evaluation and treatment, if necessary. These medical specialists are trained in a protocol called "complex decongestive therapy" which may be helpful to you. This non-invasive technique is capable of draining excess lymphatic fluid from the skin, and can be followed by the use of compression garments to help prevent further lymphatic congestion. Specific procedures for maintaining skin softness and integrity can also be helpful.
Join Now to ask a follow-up question or share your experience!
We'll help guide and support you through treatments.
Similar Questions
How long did it take for you to feel normal again after breast cancer? Or do you ever feel normal again?
Everything I have read about balloon radiotherapy treatment after lumpectomy has been very positive, and yet a recent NYT article was quite negative. Thoughts?
Why is a second surgery recommend to remove additional tissue after my lumpectomy? Why was this not done during the first surgery?
What have you done to get back to "normal" after breast cancer treatments finished? How is that going so far?
How long after having a lumpectomy for breast cancer will external radiation treatment begin?
Note: All content on this site is informational and not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with questions regarding your health.
Note: Usernames have been made anonymous and profile images are not shown to protect the privacy of our members.
Flag Content
Please explain why you are flagging this content. Thank you.
Thank you for flagging this content. We will look into it right away.
Give a 'Thank you' to
Talk About Health
Add Answer

1) Question:
2) Background Info (optional): What context or background information is relevant to this request?
The more clear and thorough your request, the more likely you will receive support.
Many of our members are learning from this information or english might not be their first language. Please use standard english and spell out all words. For example, use 'you' instead of 'u'.
Talk About Health
Please join TalkAboutHealth and you will be able to ask questions.
Subscribe to our free updates for the latest news, best answers and featured experts!
Your Email:
Q&A Workshop Announcements
(Featured experts, answers, tips, & latest news.)
Q&A Workshop Summaries
(Answer summaries from our expert Q&A workshops.)
Best of TalkAboutHealth (weekly)
(The week's best answers, news & support.)
TalkAboutHealth Benefits
(Custom health, wellness & medical promotions from our partners.)

Partners become a partner

© Copyright 2018 - Talk About Health - Privacy Policy | Terms of Service
x Don't show again
Like us on Facebook?