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Hematoma (Blood Build-Up)

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Like a bruise, a hematoma is a mark on your skin because blood is trapped under the surface. A hematoma usually refers to the mark created when blood builds up in a surgical wound where tissue has been removed.

Hematomas can be caused by breast cancer surgery:

  • lymph node removal
  • lumpectomy
  • mastectomy

Hematomas can show up 7 to 10 days after surgery, after the drainage tubes have been removed. The breast area involved in the surgery may have a spot that's swollen and feels like there is liquid under the skin.

Managing a hematoma

If you notice a hematoma forming, tell your doctor. The blood that causes a hematoma is usually reabsorbed back into your body. In some cases, the blood may need to be surgically drained, usually by reopening the incision made during breast cancer surgery.

To reduce your risk of getting a hematoma after breast cancer surgery, you can:

  • Avoid massaging, bumping, or compressing the breast area where surgery was done.
  • Avoid anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicines such as aspirin and ibuprofen (one brand name: Advil). NSAIDs can thin your blood and prolong bleeding.
  • Use a heated compress on the affected area 2 to 3 times a day to help the blood reabsorb.

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