Side-Effects of a Breast Cancer Surgery: Inception, Mitigation, and the Road Ahead

An individual, who has recently been operated for breast cancer, must be ready to face some harsh realities of life, considering the diverse set of side-effects in play. While the process seems easy to initiate, it comes with a host of glaring complications, both in the long and short run. Moreover, we must also take the aspects of breast reconstructive surgery and the associated risks into account, as most women resort to the same upon cancer removal.

breast cancer

Then again, it is necessary to undergo a complete post-operative diagnosis before we can analyze the diverse side-effects and the associated threat mitigation plans. Regardless of the side-effects or the lack thereof, every patient must speak to a health advisor, periodically, as a part of the post-operative care.

Immediate Side-Effects and Mitigation Plans

  1. Shoulder Stiffness

Encountering a certain-level of shoulder stiffness is common after surgery.  However, individuals can always rely on specific arm exercises for increasing arm and shoulder mobility. Connecting with an experienced physiotherapist is one of the best post-operative approaches, required to get rid of this immediate side-effect.

  1. Seroma

Breast surgery for removing cancer is immediately followed by fluid accumulation, in and around the scar tissues. Quite common after a mastectomy, Seroma might result in discomfort and lingering pain. Water accumulation around the armpit is also common in the case of axillary dissection. A good way to get rid of the teething discomfort is to ask a professional for draining out the fluid using syringes and needles.

  1. Lymphedema

Surgery to handle malignant proliferation might cause significant levels of swelling, in areas surrounding the lymph nodes. Lymphedema is commonly encountered when the nodes are removed during the surgery. The mitigation plan, however, is quite simple as in most cases, basic skincare routine, arm exercises, and systematic fluid drainage would suffice and get the swelling down, considerably.

  1. Hematoma

Pus build-up and redness around the operated region might pave that way for a more dangerous development i.e. hematoma. Once blood starts accumulating underneath the skin surface as hematoma, a minimally invasive drainage technique is necessary to get rid of the same.

In addition to the mentioned side-effects, individuals can also end up experiencing infections, anesthesia-induced troubles, fatigue, tingling in the upper arm or chest, and even cording— a condition where the lymph nodes harden up, resulting in hindered arm movement and pain.

Also Read: Do These 4 Things to Cut Your Breast Cancer Risk

Long-Term Issues

Breast surgery for getting rid of malignancy isn’t always plagued by immediate or short-term side-effects. Most women can end up encountering serious issues even after a few months or years, due to hormonal or internal changes. Depending on the post-operative medication or supplementary cancer treatment options like radiation and drug-induced chemotherapy, a person can start experiencing bone issues, hastened menopause, and emotional distress. Albeit indicative, women who have been operated for cancer removal might also experience issues related to weight gain and intimacy.

Other long-term and persisting symptoms include hot flashes, insomnia, and depression. Then again, breast surgery inadvertently hits the existing confidence levels of a woman, which makes them conscious about the appearance.

In addition to the side-effects resulting from surgeries, the entire breast cancer treatment module is prone to certain long and short-term risks. Be it excessive inclination towards aromatase inhibitors or tamoxifen, post-operative medications often speed up the development of these side-effects, which might take some time to fizzle out.

While each one of the mentioned side-effects or issues related to physical discomfort is easy to handle via natural and progressive means, you need to be careful and rely on periodic consultations in case of unrelenting pain.

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Article Author Details

Deepika Sharma