- Question from Barb: I had my lymph nodes removed two weeks ago. The drain is still in, and it is painful. Is this normal? Is Percocet addictive?
- Answers - Ann Berger Actually that's a two-part question. The first part has to do with the pain under the armpits, which is normal after an operation, and, in fact, could last for a long period of time. Initially, the pain under the armpit is going to be acute pain, because it's immediate postoperative pain, and part of the discomfort is actually from the drains themselves. Later on, you might develop more numbness and burning sensations. Right now, it's probably very numb, feels very heavy, and also like an achy pain, which is very normal. There is nothing to be concerned about. I would be concerned if you had a fever, and that's actually something to watch for.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. Before surgery, you probably thought very little about your armpit, but after surgery, all of a sudden your armpit demands a lot of attention. In addition to the pain, you can also have swelling. You may have numbness on the surface but soreness underneath. And with all the movement of your arm back and forth in that area, the whole situation can be aggravated.
To answer the question about Percocet—it is very appropriate to use opiates for this type of underarm pain and no, it is not addictive. These are terms that we really need to go over. When you take opiates or Percocet-type medications, which include morphine, Percocet, and Dilaudid, long-term, they can cause what's called physical dependence. This is not a bad thing. This is what I call a 'Dunkin' Donuts' phenomenon. What that means is that if you drink 24 cups of coffee, and you take away the coffee, you're going to withdraw. If you have 25 Percocet-type medicines a day for many months and many years, and then you quickly take it away, you're going to withdraw. That's not going to happen with a few Percocets a day over a short period of time. That is very different from addiction.
Addiction is a psychological need for the medicine without real pain. It's using the medicine even though you're causing harm to yourself and others. It's a person on the street stealing a TV set to get drugs. That's not anyone on this conference call, and it's, in fact, pretty difficult to become addicted to opiates like morphine and Percocet.
Another thing you can try to do to ease the pain are the exercises you can learn about through Reach for Recovery. They'll bring you a ball, special pillows, and they will show you climbing exercises.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. When can someone start doing those exercises? And how do you get started?
- Ann Berger Almost immediately after the operation. This I can only answer from my personal experience, which was almost immediately after the operation.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Breast Cancer Pain featured Ann Berger, R.N., M.S.N., M.D. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about managing pain caused by breast cancer and breast cancer treatments.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in April 2002.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
A production of LiveWorld, Inc.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.