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Infection in breast after lumpectomy/radiation-update

Posts: 176
Joined: Oct 2010

It appears this isn't very common as I have searched all over the internet and on these boards for older posts and have found very little information. I developed an infection in the breast where I had the lumpectomy about 3 weeks after my radiation was over. First the breast swelled and became purplish red, then I became very sick, tired, chills, pain, some nausea. I went to the oncologist about 3 days after it started (regular appt) and he put me on antibiotics. I had another appt the next week with the breast surgeon. She extended the antibiotics for another week, drained fluid and had it tested. The draining was one mother-of-a-painful-experience BTW. Third appt another week later with the breast surgeon when she drained more fluid and 'palpated to check for pockets of infection'...another mother-of-a-painful-experience!

It is finally starting to get better. The swelling is going down and the 'angry red' color (the breast surgeon's words) is subsiding. Unfortunately, the skin over the incision peeled. It is raw, bleeding and very painful. I wear huge sterile pads that cover the entire breast as the holes where she drained fluid continue to drain and bleed every day. This is not a pleasant experience and I was very, very depressed to have this happen as I was finishing my treatments...thinking I might start to be able to feel and do some 'normal' activities again...like going on vacation and swimming laps at our pool club, etc. Anyway.

I post to let others who may experience this that this does sometimes happen, though rarely. And that one does get through it. Even though it sucks. Just sayin... Thanks for listening ladies. Barbara

mwallace1325's picture
Posts: 806
Joined: Apr 2009

So sorry you have to go through this. It sounds like a truly awful experience and hopefully you'll now be on the road to do what you want to do.


DebbyM's picture
Posts: 3293
Joined: Oct 2009

I am so sorry about the infection. I hope that you will be better soon. Thanks for letting us know about this.

Hugs, Debby

Bella Luna's picture
Bella Luna
Posts: 1579
Joined: Aug 2009

Barbara... so sorry to hear about the infection. It sound so awful and painful. I am glad to hear the drugs are working for you-phew!

I had a staph infection after my 2nd lumpectomy. My incision was plum red and warm to the touch. That was the first time I had every had a Staph infection. Now I know what one looks like.

I got it exercising at the gym. I was going to undergo chemo and wanted to be Strong and Ready as I didn't know what to expect from the infusions. I went into overdrive and ended up postponing my start up date until after I was done with the drugs and got clearance from the infectious diseases doctor to begin treatment.

In the end, it cleared up and I was on my way. That was two years ago and now I am moving FORWARD. My best to you on your Road to Recovery! Keep going, your doing GREAT!

butterflylvr's picture
Posts: 944
Joined: Apr 2011

How awful, I am so glad your on the mend Barbara. Let's hope there are no more speed bumps in the road for you dear sister.


Lynn Smith
Posts: 1265
Joined: Mar 2011

You said you had radaition first and then the lumpectomy.I always thought it was the other way around??? Maybe it depends on the situation like my doctor tells me over and over.Everyone is different.

Glad things are better for you.Sounds like you had a very bad infection that lingered so long and other serious symptoms that went with it.

Lynn Smith

Posts: 176
Joined: Oct 2010

Thanks all, for your support. Honestly I have been so depressed for the past 3 weeks that I haven't even been able to muster up any positive posts for others. I've just been wallowing in "why me" lately. I'm curious Bella Luna, did the staph infection develop in the surgical site? Do you know why you got it? Thanks for the encouragement that "this too shall pass." I asked the surgeon why this happened and she said, "Beats the hell out of me."

And Lynn, I must have written that incorrectly. I had chemo to shrink the tumor, then the lumpectomy, then radiation. 3 weeks after the radiation was over this nightmare began. It was July 4th weekend because I was horribly ill and had to miss a big neighborhood BBQ that weekend. Whoa is me right? So many others on this board with much more difficult situations. I feel kind of selfish whining. Barbara

Posts: 332
Joined: Sep 2010

I had a lumpectomy and then 33 radiations. Well near the end of rads I was so burned and feeling terrible. I got so ill I thought I was dying. Called radiation doc and she wouldn't see me as I was farmed out to her from Kaiser Ins. They only paid her for radiation and she told me to go to primary doctor. Well I did and thank God as I had e coli in my breast area. It was a couple inches long and pure white infection. When I would mentioned it at (during) radiation they would tell me it was okay and to just put more creme on it. Well I was on antibiotics for weeks trying to get rid of it. Really ran me down and I know how you must have felt. It will be 1 year on the 4th of Aug. since surgery and 9 months since rads. Only this week and part of last week have I felt human again. Still tired and lots of arth. in hands ,feet, and most joints. Which will never go away. Just another side effect of Arimidex and rad. I am off the med and probably won't be able to take any of them. Just have to live with the side effects and go on. I want to be happy that 1 year is coming up and I do finally feel pretty good. I wish the best for you. My prayers are with you and all of us going through this *&$#*&%# horrible disease. Hope I didn't go on and on.

My prayers and thought are with you, Barb

jnl's picture
Posts: 3873
Joined: May 2009

I haven't heard of this. I'm so sorry Barbara. I will keep you in my prayers.

Love, Leeza

skipper54's picture
Posts: 936
Joined: Feb 2011

The gal who owns the Curves where I go had a similar experience after a lumpectomy and ended up having to have a mastectomy. Good you are so proactive!!!!

Hope you feel better soon! Will put you on my prayer list.

natly15's picture
Posts: 1941
Joined: Sep 2009

Barb I also developed a raging infection at the surgical sight after 2nd surgery. Had a lumpectomy and removal of sentinel lymph node, then they went back in and removed the rest of the nodes a month later. I had the fever and chills and red purple breast, however they did not need to drain me, but I was on antibiotics from Sept thru april and all thru 8 1/2 rounds of chemo. It was frightening but like you said we get thru it. I stopped the antibiotics in April of 2010 and am doing quite well. Just had my port removed 2 weeks ago. Hoping this gives encouragement and hope to you and anyone who has this experience. Hugs

Bella Luna's picture
Bella Luna
Posts: 1579
Joined: Aug 2009

Regarding your question about my Staph infection... I got it at the gym when I was exercising and sweating up a storm. It started getting red and soreness set in. The infection wasn't inside of the incision, but on the surface of it. The incision and surrounding skin were very RED. I think the perspiration and me touching it aggravated the situation.

I saw the onc several days later and he could tell right away it was a skin infection. He prescribed a drug( Keflex) to help remedy the problem. Wouldn't you know it... I developed an allergic reaction to the drug 7-8 days later. I stopped taking the drug and was referred to an infectious diseases doctor who prescribed another drug that did the trick. Once all this cleared up, I started chemo.

Best of luck to you.

VickiSam's picture
Posts: 9080
Joined: Aug 2009

Angry Red right breast with expander ... on our home from our Grand Canyon vacation last April .. Bilateral Mastectomy - with Tissue Expanders on January 12th..

Oncologist approved my domestic vacation. We stayed at a highly rated hotel, cold weather, train ride -- bus tours, etc. I rested when possible, however on the ride home I felt tired, and sluggish.. within 12 hours my newly right constructed breast become ENFLAMED with a beet red coloring, by morning my breast was swollen, raw and my temperature was up to 102. Plastic Surgeon prescribed antibiotics, within 2 days I was admitted to the ER with a staph infection .. I am allergic to penicillin, so 3 various antibiotics dripped into my veins. .. nothing worked ...

Emergency surgery to removed the staph infected right tissue expander .. 5 day hospital stay to ensure my safety, as well as get my WBC counts up.

Did I mention that I walked around with 1 fully expanded

Infectious Disease Doctor count NOT pin point where I picked up Staph, and has continue to see me 1 year later. I am not allowed to leave the US (seriously) for another 2 years. Too many new germs that my body can not tolerate.

I continue to use antibacterial wipes when I shop, use shopping carts, touch store handles -- etc. I spent the day at Disneyland, last week and survived .. baby steps! Oh by the way, I used 27 antibacterial wipes in 12 hours!! Yipeee ..

Infections happen .. rare, and few ..but we are out here.

Sucks big time to deal with any infection to our breast, and/or Staph!

Best of luck to you,

Vicki Sam

Posts: 176
Joined: Oct 2010

Thanks again for all support and to Bella Luna, Diana, Natly15 and VickiSam thanks for sharing your stories. While it's comforting, in a strange way, to know I'm not alone, I feel terrible that you all had to go through this. I told our secretary yesterday that the worst part of this is that I thought I was through it. I was healing. The rad burns were healing and the breast was no longer swollen. And then wham! Untold more weeks of dealing with pain and treatment and the unknown. Had someone told me, you will still have several more months of agony I would have prepared myself, but, no preparing for this. Best to all. Barbara

linny b's picture
linny b
Posts: 25
Joined: Jul 2011

I've had two bouts of cellulitis in the breast after mastectomy, and right after additional surgery. It sounds very similar to your infection, Red, hot,sore, swollen breast, red area spread rapidly, running a temp. I was admitted to the hospital both times and put on IV-antibiotics, then more antibiotics at home. This is a very serious condition, don't ignore it and think it will go away on its own. It can actually be deadly, if left on its own. Call your doctor right away or go to the emergency room. Take care, glad your better.

DebbyM's picture
Posts: 3293
Joined: Oct 2009

We are always here for you Barbara. I just wish that I could do more for you.

robang13's picture
Posts: 333
Joined: Apr 2011


Sorry you had to go through this. I know how horrid and painful it is. After my lumpectomy, the second surgery in 2 weeks, I developed an infection also. Felt like crap for 2 days before I realized what it was. The difference between yours and mine though is I had a little whole in my breast that the puss oozed out of. Talk about grossness! It would gush out so much at times that I walked around with kotex taped to my breast and padding around that. I guess that's what saved me from having to get it drained. It WILL stop, eventually. It will heal, eventually. Have patience. I know it's not easy and you can't do anything you want and you feel like crap.I was soo pissed when it happened to me that I would stand there and cry to my husband that I couldn't take it anymore! The pain is bad especially when it's filled. I hear you and feel you. Just keep it covered and clean. I would stand over the sink and pour water over it. It made it feel better. I was told it was cystitis of the breast and it happens frequently after lumpectomies especially if the breast was operated on before the lumpectomy. This doesn't help you feel any better, I know. If you want to talk,email me. Good luck and know it WILL go away!!


Posts: 1
Joined: Sep 2016

I realize this is a very old thread, but this just happened to me as well. I finished 20 rounds of radiation two weeks ago after a lumpectomy. I was given a variety of creams to put on the burns and blisters from the radiation. After using one of them, the area got even more painful and swollen, so I stopped using it. The swelling didn't go away, and for the last week, the breast had been hard and painful and swollen.

Until tonight. I was out in the front yard, feeding the neighborhood stray cat, and all of a sudden, my shirt felt wet. It was if I'd sprung a leak. The entire front of my shirt and down the front of my pants. I hurried into the house and into the shower to peel off clothing. The entire inside of my bra was full of a yellowish fluid, which continued to drip and then spray out of my breast. I stood in the shower until I thought it had stopped, and had to return to the shower twice until it actually slowed down. COMPLETELY freaked me out. The soreness and hardness went away immediately, although the entire area is still the horrid dark red color from the radiation.

The spot that the fluid was leaking from is the very end of my surgery scar. Now that the oozing (flowing!) has subsided a bit, I put a piece of gauze over it, and a sports bra to hold it in place. I called my oncologist, who seemed very calm about the whole thing, said it sounded like an infection and to call my surgeron to get an antibiotic.

Which I can't do until morning.

It was just such a relief to find this form and the comments of women with similar experiences, I do feel much calmer now, and will be calling my surgeron in the AM for an appointment. Hopefully the oozing has subsided. My breast looks flat and deflated now after being so swollen for a week.  I guess that's a good thing.


Posts: 8
Joined: Aug 2016

Jo-I had the same thing happen after my re-section.  My breast kept swelling up with fluids and the incision kept bursting open at one end.  My surgeon had to drain it, put me on an anti-biotic then the incision got really lumpy (looked like a caterpillar).  The surgeon then had to go in and clean out all the scar tissue that was forming and re-stitch it.  I kept a bandage on it for 2 weeks and it finally healed up.  I started my radiation Monday - on day 4 today.


Hope yours is better now!



Posts: 6563
Joined: Oct 2010

checking back in to see how  you are doing..



Iris_G's picture
Posts: 50
Joined: Aug 2016

Why do they schedule radiation to start so soon after surgery?!  Thank goodness, since I had to do chemo first, my radiation was 8 months after my surgery! My incision had time to properly heal before it was zapped!  I couldn't imagine having to go through the surgery and almost immediately do radiation.  My hat is off to you ladies for having to deal with all that so soon after surgery!

Posts: 8
Joined: Nov 2016

Dear Barbara, Adding my regrets for the difficult and frightenig time you endured during your treatments. I had a lumpectomy,  two lymp nodes were removed and biopsy was performed while I was on the table..when results were in, the surgeon knew how to procede, no second surgery for that was necessary. Four days later another  outpatient surgery was performed implanting a device for internal radiation, but in a different location from the first incision. There were 10 internal radiation treatments, 2 daily for 5 days. There was a problem with this site, as it stayed damp and developed a rash, which took a couple of weeks to clear with cream and 4 weeks of anti-biotics prescribed by the radiologist.  The chemo began later and there are 12 Taxel treatments and 13 weeks of Herceptin, since I have an Her2 positve duct.  There are good prognosis and good medical teams.  It began in Kansas City at a teaching University and is being completed at Moffitt in Tamp.  Good medical teams are  important, but each individual's chemistry and life style impacts the results as well.   Good luck to you. Hugs, too.

Apaugh's picture
Posts: 497
Joined: Aug 2016

Bi-lateral done March 4 of 2016.  Two weeks later woke up in a pile of infection covering my gown and bed.  Ran into the bathtub and it poured out of me .  Surgeon got me right in and gave me tons of antibiotics and he cut the incision open on one side and drained as much as he could.  It was gross.  I had to see him once a week for 6 more weeks and each time he would cut a little hole and it would shoot out like a yellow fountain.  I was horrified.  Dial soap helped and keeping the incision dry by changing the bandages often.  Doc says can sometimes just happen.  No matter how many precautions you take.  I think it comes from the hospitals.  I hope yours clears up and you progress further with healing and wonderful days.

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