Armpit Discomfort

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Armpit discomfort, including pain, swelling, and a feeling of fullness or numbness, can happen after the following surgeries to treat breast cancer:

  • lumpectomy
  • mastectomy
  • lymph node removal

Some of the nerves in your armpit may be cut during surgery, which can cause numbness. If your surgeon had to move around some of the tissue under the surface of your skin, the area may feel tender and swollen.

Your armpit skin is close to your breast, so during radiation your armpit may get irritated and sore while you're being treated. In addition to the radiation, your arm rubbing back and forth on the skin, along with the sweat and hair that's there can make the area more irritated than your breast.

Managing armpit discomfort

  • Use cornstarch instead of deodorant or antiperspirant to reduce friction of your arm rubbing on the skin. For easy application, put some cornstarch into a thin sock or knee-high and tie a knot at the top. Tap the sock gently against your skin.
  • Avoid strong soaps, antiperspirants, and deodorants.
  • Don't shave your armpit during your radiation treatment.
  • Wear loose clothing and try to keep your arm away from your body as much as you can.
  • Try applying aloe vera lotion/gel or hydrocortisone cream if your armpit skin is itchy and pink.
  • Use warm rather than hot water while showering.

Your armpit should feel better after you've recovered from surgery and after you've completed radiation. If you don't get any relief, talk to your doctor about a stronger steroid cream or other measures you can take.

When you do start shaving your armpit again, you might want to use an electric razor to reduce the risk of nicks and cuts.

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