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Anyone ever have cancer spread to underarm lymph nodes?

lindaprocopio's picture
Posts: 2022
Joined: Oct 2008

My recurrance so far has been limited to my lymph system (1 enlarged lymph node in my pelvis; a tiny one behind my stomach; and a painful node in my arm pit.) The metastisis to the underarm really seemed to surprise all 3 of my oncologists. Is it unusual for a gynecologic cancer to travel to the underarm nodes? None of my nodes have been biopsied to confirm the cancer; they are relying on the sharp uptake in my CA-125 and how they lit up on my PET-scan. Only the one under the arm can be safely reached for a needle biopsy or surgerical removal, and the reasoning is "we have to do chemo for the others anyway, so why put you through the surgery?" I was just wondering if anyone else here had their cancer travel to their lymph system like mine did, and whether anyone had an involved armpit node. & where do you think the cancer is trying to go from there? Breast? Hopefully the taxol can hold it within the lymph system, or better yet, knock it out altogether!

Would most of you want any known cancer cut out if it was accessible? Before my 1st chemo infusion Monday, my underarm was really hurting so much that I held my arm away from my body most of the time. But the taxol (or maybe the steroids with it???) really knocked back that discomfort almost immediately. But now I am having some watery discharge and minor pelvic swelling, probably associated with that pelvic node, that I'll need to report on when I go Monday for chemo again. Tomorrow I am getting a port put in. Christmas is too BUSY a time for all this doctoring!!

It's impossible to research recurrance things, as I guess everyone's is different. My ocologists have been pretty quiet, like they don't want to pile more information on me than I can handle. Or maybe they just don't know. In God's hands....

Posts: 47
Joined: May 2009

I have a small tumor in the lymph node under my arm pit along with several other locations. I agree, it's painful for me too. It has not been removed because I am still in a clinical trial using a PARP Inhibitor and surgery in not an option. Eventually, I would like to have it removed if for no other reason but for comfort level. If I do much with upper arm lifting, stretching...I really feel it. I hate when they measure or feel the tumor, the pain lasts for hours. Mine was confirmed cancerous and specifically ovarian cancer under the arm. It is not a usual occurence. I guess we are just lucky - right??!!
My first round with ovarian was April/08, this second round of treatment started in May/09 when I tested positive for BRCA 1 and an MRI was done on the breast tissue and surrounding areas. Yes, like you I worry if it will spread to the breasts too.

We'll just have to support each other.
hang in there.

Posts: 279
Joined: May 2009

Hi Linda,
When I had my debulking surgery in May 2007, I was staged 4B wih mets to the lymph nodes.

Every relapse involved the lymph nodes, and my leg swelling was because the lymph system was blocked, and the nodes didn't allow draining.

My surgeon had said no surgery because some of the nodes were on major blood vessels and I could hemorrhage on the OR table.

My oncologist treats me with chemo, he says that will get all the cancer in the body and I trust his judgment.

This horrible disease is so frustrating, and we just don't know what is the "perfect" treatment for each of us.

This weeks scans showed no tumors, or masses which is wonderful, BUT we have to figure out why my CA is rising every month, and why the CT at the hospital, and the doppler study both showed enlarged lymph nodes in the pelvic area.
Monday when I see my oncologist I hope I can get some answers, maybe a PET scan will help.

Have you had a C reactive protein, or a SED rate blood test?
My oncologist says when they're high it means something is going on in the body.

I hope some of this info is helpful to you, I've also been getting some pains under the arm. Of course with every little pain, I think cancer.

Take care of yourself,

saundra's picture
Posts: 1390
Joined: Mar 2007

Since they removed my spleen (the big daddy lymph node) during the debulking surgery I was sure that my cancer had invaded the lymph system pretty well. I asked the surgeon if he removed any lymph nodes and he answered, "We don't remove the lymph nodes." Later, I found out that helps keep the fluid from building up, and the chemo works on the nodes anyway. I have not had to have any fluid drained, so maybe that is a good thing. I did have multiple tumors throughout the abdomen from pelvic area to the liver so that surely meant lymph system involvement. Thus far, I have not had one get sore under my arm.
My brother, died of throat cancer in 2006. They did strip all of his lymph nodes down one arm during one surgery, but I don't think it bought him any more time.
I know what you mean about the oncologist being quiet. Mine will answer questions but I don't think he volunteers any information. I, personally, can handle any information better than not knowing something.
I love my port!!! It is much less painful on access than drawing arm vein blood. Try to have a Blessed Christmas and remain in God's Hands and under His Holy Hedge of Protection. Saundra

Posts: 6
Joined: May 2010

I was just diagnosed with recurrence in the axillary lymph node :( and was wondering if chemo worked for you or any of the ladies that posted comments here? Just like your doctors, mine was very surprised by the location as it seems to be rather unusual...
Big hugs to all of you!

lindaprocopio's picture
Posts: 2022
Joined: Oct 2008

Hi, bluecanari! I took weekly taxol for 10 weeks, and then we did a mid-course-treatment CT/PET, and had the happy surprise that all 3 lymph nodes had shrunk down to normal and none of them lit up on my February PET scan! I immediately took a 4 months break from chemo, based on the recommendation from my gyne-oncologist. Unfortunately, when I had a new CT/PET on Monday the lymph node under the arm and the one in the para-aortic region 'lit up' again, although they are still smaller than they were when initially discovered. I would encourage you to consider weekly taxol if your oncologist mentions it as an option. It was an easy chemo, with only fatigue and baldness as side affects, nothing else. And it did totally knock back those nodes for awhile.

Posts: 6
Joined: May 2010

Thank you for your response Linda. Glad to hear the Taxol worked for you. I did Taxol (IP & IV after my first surgery in 2007). However when I had a recurrence on my spleen in 2009 both Johns Hopkins and MD Anderson told me no chemo until new evidence of disease since they don't think my type of tumor (low grade) was responding to chemo...

I now have this lymph node and the biopsy shows more aggressive tumor (the first ones where low grade). I will meet with a breast surgeon at Johns Hopkins next week to see if she can remove the node. I was wondering why did your doctor decide not to remove your under the arm? Are there any significant risks associated with the procedure?

Another reason why I would like the node removed is to have it send to Rational Therapeutics (Dr. Nagourney) to have chemo assay done on "live" tissue (as opposed to the type of chemo assay done in places like Oncotech). Many many decisions and variables in our equations... Talking to you my dear warriors helps a lot! Thanks


msfanciful's picture
Posts: 581
Joined: Nov 2009

Hi Linda,

I've gotten a little behind on the posts lately.

But I am so glad to hear this news. I just 8 weekly taxol doses which put me back into remission. Don't know how long it will hold but hoping for the best. I too have those 2 nagging lymph-nodes that sit near my spine, that just don't every go away. Along with ca-125 counts my oncologist gauges my next treatment based on the enlargement or shrinking of these 2 particular nodes. Sighhh.

Nevertheless I'm super excited for you and am really viewing these taxol treatments with great promise.

We'll see right?

Congratulations again,


Tina Brown's picture
Tina Brown
Posts: 1054
Joined: Nov 2009

So pleased to hear that Taxol has worked for you. Enjoy the relief.

Love Tina xx

Posts: 6
Joined: May 2010

Not sure if you saw my previous post -- I was just wondering if there was any reason why your doctor did not recommend the removal of the node under your arm? Just curious.

lindaprocopio's picture
Posts: 2022
Joined: Oct 2008

My gyne-onc and chemo-onc both want me to have the lymph node removed, but were over-ridden by the breast cancer oncologist who would do the surgery (apparantly because he is the most experienced in this under-arm lymph node removal.) He wants me to have a sonogram-guided needle biopsy first. I think he wants to be sure this is an edometrial cancer recurrence and not a new primary cancer before they decide whether to just take the 1 involved node or take the ones all around it too. But I believe I'll have that node cut out before the month is out, regardless of the needle biopsy results.

By the way, the CRUISE was wonderful and worth delaying treatment to go! It was so good to NOT think about cancer for 9 days and to see my husband laughing and lighthearted, a rare occurance since my cancer returned.

BonnieR's picture
Posts: 1549
Joined: Jan 2004

just wanted to send a hug your way. Glad you got away on a cruise. Hugs ♥ Prayers Bonnie

PS Great Picture!!

Posts: 6
Joined: May 2010

Thank you Linda for sharing the information. I am happy to hear you had a great time -- I can tell from the picture that you and your husband had a great time.

I already had the biopsy done because, just in your case, my doctors at J Hopkins thought it could be breast cancer. I will go for surgery this Wednesday to remove the node. I am praying that I will have enough tissue which can be sent to Rational Therapeutics for testing 8-16 chemo agents.

Please keep us posted about your plans. I will do the same. May God help and heal all of us!

PS> please say a prayer for me on Wednesday morning

Posts: 190
Joined: Oct 2012

Linda: I was diagnosed on October 2, 2012. I am 3C serious. I am planning a cruise also. I am 9 weeks into my treatment and have 9 more weeks to go. So far I am doing ok, but feel a need to continue the best I can with my life and one thing I always wanted to do was go on a crusie. Which line did you go on? Any information would be helpful. There are so many different crusise out there.

Posts: 5
Joined: Jan 2012

Ptarp, I am so sorry but Linda passed away some time ago.  i wish you the very best, enjoy the cruise.

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