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swollen left armpit

Posts: 2
Joined: Dec 2012

I have a question for anyone out there. I have had a swollen left armpit for a little over 2 months. I am a 59 yr old woman. There is a history of breast cancer on my Mother's side. I went to the Dr about a month ago. He said it was a swollen lymph node and gave me a ten day supply of antibiotics. He said it was an infection of some sort. I went back last week because it was still swollen and somewhat tender. He sent more for an ultrasound. I received a call from his nurse today telling me it is not a lymph node, it is some sort of fatty tissue ? She advised me if it is still swollen in a month to call the Dr. I told her it has already been two months. Would an ultra sound be able to detect if it was nothing to be worried about ? I did have blood tests done today.

jessiesmom1's picture
Posts: 873
Joined: Jun 2010

I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer 3 years ago when I was 51 years old. There is no history of cancer of ANY type on either side of my family. I noticed something out of the ordinary when I was laying in bed at night and felt a knot in my right arm pit. Hmmm.... I felt the left side and it felt "normal." I went back and forth at night for a couple of weeks and then decided that the lump in the right armpit was sore and seemed to be growing. I happened to have my annual ob/gyn appointment at that time and he sent me for an ultrasound. A lump could be seen but what TYPE of lump they could not determine. The next step was an excision biopsy. A whirlwind of tests and imaging came after that - axillary dissection, PET/CT scan,and EGD. The final piece of the puzzle was the Tissue of Origin test. I had breast cancer. No lump, mass, tumor, growth or whatever you want to call it was EVER found in my breast tissue. The only symptom I ever had was the enlarged lymph nodes in my right underarm.

If after a course of antibiotics the lymph nodes are still swollen, then I would be asking for a biopsy of the area. Don't take NO for an answer - especially because you have a history of breast cancer in your family. This is not a common presentation of breast cancer but it is not exactly unheard of either. Usually the cause of lymph node enlargement is infection but NOT always. Most doctors assume it is an infection because they "are looking for horses, not zebras."

Good luck and keep us posted on what happens.

Posts: 2
Joined: Dec 2012

Thank you so much for responding. It is kind of what I thought. When I lay in bed at night, I do the same thing.

Posts: 1
Joined: May 2013

I am 22 years old, I have had a swollen lymph node in my armpit since August of 2012 it is now May 11th 2013 (all in all 9 months) I was reading forums on here about similar issues with other women and decided to register on this site in hopes that some one would read my post and be able to help with advice and some in sight on the matter. I have a histroy of Breast cancer through out my family on my mothers side. My two aunts were Diagnosed with Breast Cancer when they were 21 and 25. One aunt had to have her left breast removed and still undergos treatment. 

The lymph nodes on my right arm are tender and sore. I was reading about the Differences between Cancerious and non cancerous Lymph Nodes and how they spread to the breasts. My left breast has issues underneith where the rib is located. It is tender and it is also hard to breathe. I was wondering if anyone knew about Lymph Nodes leaking and oozing it seems to have dramatically spread in size since I first noticed it back in August. Could someone maybe reply to this and give me options as to what i should do? I alos dont have any insurance so if I go to a crappy doctor and he says its just an in-grown hair or something what should I do next from there? After all it has been there nine months and growing progressively wouldnt an in-grown hair go away within that time rather then staying there and growing bigger? 

Posts: 84
Joined: Dec 2011

I agree you need to pursue this lymph node issue. Can you get a copy of the ultrasound to read it yourself? I my case I had a swollen lymph node under my left arm pit. When I had my mammogram in Sept. 2008 the insurance company sent me to a place I hated on sight. The mammogram came back abnormal, I had an ultrasound to look at the lymph node, the technician did't know what the heck she was supposed to look for, her supervisor had to show her, I should have walked out then and there - shoulda, coulda... Finally got a report with some blather about the lymph node. Next year I categorically refused to go back to the same outfit and was sent to an excellent hospital nearby, mammogram abnormal, ultrasound abnormal, followed by biopsy which showed IDC, Stage IIB, HER+, 2 lymph nodes positive! Please, I do not mean to frighten you, most of the time things turn out to be NOT cancerous, but pursue it until you have a satisfactory answer.
Keep us posted, please, and may you be one of the many who have indeed a benign condition.

Posts: 3659
Joined: Aug 2009

I'd suggest a second opinion - ASAP! Also a biopsy. There is a type of BC that does not always 'show' on mammo or sono. In my case there, there was no swelling one night and the next there was a 'jellybean' size one under arm. (2 months before I had a clear mammo.) My PA was out of town so it took me a week to get into see her. In that week, it had progressed to 'pecan in shlell' size and was showing other signs. That afternoono I was in for a new mammo, sono, and biopsy, getting the path results the next morning at 8 - IBC (Inflammatory Breast Cancer). That day wa 3 yrs ago last Aug and march will be 3 yrs since end of treaatment and as far as I know I'm still 'riding NED (No Evidence of Disease).

A few facts to remember - 80% of all 'lumps' that are found are benign. 87% of all DX'd (diagnosed) with all forms of BC are still NED 5 yrs later. Rates are different for the different types though and thankfully the most aggressive type (IBC) is also the smallest group - only between 1% and 5% of all BC is IBC. Also it is possible that it is an infection - different infections often need a different antibiotic - all anti-biotics do not work on all infections.

Please get a sencond opinion ASAP - 2 months is more than long enough to go without any answer.

Winyan - The Power Within


Edit added - what kind of blod work? There are many different types of blood work - some pertain specifically to cancer issues but other is just general that everyone should have annually at least.

Gabe N Abby Mom's picture
Gabe N Abby Mom
Posts: 2415
Joined: Sep 2010

I agree, insist on a biopsy. Because you are on a cancer discussion board you will not get the stories of people who had a lump/swelling that turned out B9. But swelling that doesn't respond to antibiotics should get further testing. Has there been any change in the swelling in the last couple of months?

My story...I came home from work one day, and found swelling in my left armpit. Saw the doc the next day, he sent me for immediate mammo and ultrasound. After that, the rads doc came in and said "I'm 99% sure it's cancer." A biopsy the next day confirmed the dx...triple neg inflammatory breast cancer.

I don't want to scare you, or cause needless worry, but IBC is often mistaken for an infection and misdiagnosed initially. Have there been any changes to your breast? Redness, a bruised look, a spot that looks like a spider bite, dimpling of the skin that looks like an orange peel are all signs of IBC.

Please come back and let us know. We want to help.



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