Does your chest and underarm become more stiff due to radiation?

I read tht fibrosis sets in the area where radiation is given. My oncologist has also told me so. I wish to know from those who have finished radiotherapy, what is the present condition. Are you able to use your hand comfortably for the household chores? Since I have had mastectomy, i am worried if I would feel more stiffness in the chest area.

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  • There is positively some stiffness but as far as household chores go you must have been told not to do some works such as rinsing of clothes typing on computers at a stretch, rolling the dough for making chapatis and whatever you feel uncomfortable with. Please be regular with your exercises but I have been told the pain on the arm on the side of mastectomy remains for quite some time and wearing of compressed arm garment is advisable.Doctor Sumeet your opinion please.

  • thank you rgci13.

  • When I had radiation, there were two doctors in the practice who alternated seeing patients. I didn't think that I would like that, but found that it worked very well, as they each brought different insights to their patients. One started a class that is held regularly about lymphodema (swelling of the arm) related to breast surgery. I, fortunately, did not have a problem, but was glad to have gone to the class to know what to look for and how it would best be dealt with if I did have swelling. I have a friend who did have a problem with lymphodemia and wore a compression sleeve for some time to control it. That was over twenty years ago and she is doing very well now. No lasting effects.

    It is natural to feel stiffness in the surgical area, including the underarm(s), and important, as it is with any surgery, to start using the arm(s), to prevent permanent stiffening. Your doctor should advise you about simple exercises to start with, and how quickly or slowly to work on increasing your range of motion. That would include various household chores. I was told after surgery to not lift anything over 5 pounds (I'm in the US and don't know weight conversation to metric, but it's not very much) for the first week or more. After that I was encouraged to do light stretching exercises throughout my recovery from surgery and during my radiation. I am now 5 1/2 years post surgery and am thankful for that advice, as I have no problems with my range of motion.

  • pkenn, thank you very much for relating your experience and also for the reassurance

  • The one thing that was suggested in my pre surgery class was to get a housecoat or bathrobe - someone there can perhaps help me with what they are called there - with pockets at or below the waist. Your wife will probably have drains initially. If you cut a slit from the inside of the pockets the drains can sit there, which makes it easier to move around. I believe there are robes designed just for that, but an inexpensive robe and a pair of scissors will work just as well. You can celebrate the end of that part of recovery by burning the robe, cutting it to pieces or whatever. Also, I don't know what the rules or practices are there regarding seat belts in cars. They are mandatory here. We were given a soft pillow to place under the seat belt during healing.

    There are all kinds of undergarments, swim suits, etc. for mastectomy patients now. The doctor and other patients in India will know more about how to find more information there. I found a shop not too far from me that specializes in that type of thing.

    After my surgery, and also after breaking my shoulder when wearing a bra was not possible, I found that men's shirts with double breast pockets were loose and comfortable and gave me a sense of modesty. The same was true of wearing a couple of loose fitting layers. Sometimes, when it was a dressier occasion, I would wear a wide shawl either hanging or wrapped loosely. Initially the issue will be healing time.

    There are bras with padding, bras designed to be worn with a filler (or two if it is a double mastectomy) and fillers of all sizes to allow a woman to feel "balanced" if a single mastectomy is done or feel natural if it is a double mastectomy. The look is very natural. There are also some good videos on you tube about dealing with make up and head coverings and wigs if your wife will have chemo and may lose her hair. You might want to look at some of those ahead of time and be ready to suggest those that you think might fit her situation as things come up. I found a couple that I really liked. I put the links up in a post about dealing with chemo. If you can't find it easily, let me know and I will repost them for you.

    I don't know if reconstructive surgery has been discussed. I have friends who have had reconstruction and are happy with the result. Other friends have decided not to go that route and are just as happy. I think a lot of your wife's feelings will depend on your reassurance that you love her total being, not some part of her body. It will make a huge difference in her comfort level if she knows that you support whatever decision she is comfortable with. There has been a lot of discussion about the safety of breast implants. The doctor will be more up to date on the latest studies about safety. My personal feeling, from what I have read, is that I might consider a saline implant, but would not want one with silicone.

    I hope this helps a little. I think it is harder to be a caregiver than it is to be a patient, and it is impossible for either to fully understand the feelings of the other. Keep posting your questions and concerns! There are some wonderful people on this site who can help you help your wife, and most of them, unlike me, can tell you what to look for specifically in India. Your wife is lucky to have such a caring partner to help her through this!

    Pat

  • thanks pkenn for sharing ideas, her 3 chemo is already completed and she is managing her hair loss effect using the scarf. dr. suggested reconstruction after 2 year, so thats why I m trying to find some solution for her..2 year is very long time to manage without reconstruction.

  • One need not wait for 2 years for reconstruction. It can be done even 3 to 6 months after completion of treatment

  • dr. I also feel the same but our dr. said, if it reoccur, then it will be problematic..so I dont know, what would be the best option. dr shah kindly advise.

  • Yes ofcourse there is stiffness in the chest and underarm, more if the exercise is not done and i feel on the hand also and also swelling in the hand. I have also heaviness on the underarm. I was told to for one time forget to eat but not to exercise. But one day the shoulder exercise is not difference in the movement and feeling is there. I do not have any problem in the movements of the hand. I had lumpectomy and not mastectomy. But still after 8 to 9 months of the surgery some un comfort is still there

  • thank u

  • Yes, I too. I had lumpectomy, radiation is going on and only 1 more is there to be complete.I feel pain, heaviness in the arm, and also in the shoulder.But,I don't do exercise regularly. Shirdi, after reading your post, I think I should take it serious and do exercise.

  • thank u for sharing your experience

  • Rana - Yea! Last radiation, and with the time difference, you may already be finished. Do take the exercises seriously. I am admittedly not big on exercise, but I know that I would have lost range of motion if I had not kept stretching. If you can't do regular exercises, just gentle stretching front, back and up, will help. You can do this type of thing several times a day for just a few times here and there.

  • thanks pkenn.

  • I had a double radical mastectomy November 2012. I cannot get used to the awful tightness around my very bony chest. Does anyone have any ideas? My GP says nothing can be done and my consultant is happy with skin condition. I cannot explain how uncomfortable 7 am.Its getting me down. Am I the only person with this problem?

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