How Will My Hand And Arm Feel After an Axillary Lymph Node Dissection?

Question: What are some possible sensations I may feel in my hand and arm after an axillary lymph node dissection, and how long will they last?

Answer: After the doctors have to remove the axillary lymph nodes, many different sensations can occur, not the same for every woman. When they have to remove those nodes, they're actually pulling away the nerves and sometimes cutting them, and the way each person's nerve reacts is different. Sometimes women report shooting, kind of stabbing pains; they may not be there all the time, but they are there sometimes, usually aggravated by movement. Other women tell us that they get us a numbness.

Now, some people don't even call that pain, but it is hard to live with. It's pain in its own sense in that you can't wear your clothes correctly. And then we have some people who say they actually have burning and tingling, and they'll tell us they can't even wear a simple nightgown that they've always loved because the touch of that nightgown is different somehow. These sensations are normal, and up to fifty percent of women report having them. Sometimes they occur right after surgery, sometimes it's a few weeks later. Unfortunately, they can last for a year or more, but the good news is there's things we can do about that, and we can make you more comfortable so that you don't have to put up with that.

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