Leo -- you are fantastic. This site is an EXTREMELY good idea. I hope it will work wonderfully. I am here from having heard from you at the Yahoo Breast Cancer Survivor Network website.
Since you are a doctor, I was wondering if you could try to answer this:
I had a left mastectomy on Sept. 2, 2004. They also removed the sentinel node and a few other nodes from under my arm (all negative--I'm lucky.) A drainage tube was left in and removed on the 12th day after surgery. When removed, it was still draining 40 mg. of blood every day. They thought it was left in long enough and removed it. Though everything is healing nicely, there is a large, very hard lump under my arm (like a small extra breast). Should I be in touch with the surgeon's office to maybe have this aspirated? Or is it normal? Thank you.
First of all, thanks for your comments. I need everyone's help to disseminate the existence of this forum. I will be having more colleagues join me here to help answer questions.
Anyway, about your question. It is very hard to know exactly your situation. I don't know what type of cancer it is, the stage. But assuming it is early breast cancer, which was completely removed and negative nodes, even if you had a local recurrence it would be extremely early. What happened almost for sure is the development of a seroma, or a small cavity containing serum, or fluid. It may get larger and perforate spontaneously. You should have this seen, and you might need drainage once again. This is not too uncommon, but it definitely needs care. I can not consider this normal, but a small complication of the surgical procedure.
Thanks for the drainage tube information -- I had thought it was mostly normal but will see to it.
You are wonderful to try this kind of a site. I hope you don't get stuck with all the questions women don't have quite the chance to ask their doctors. Are you prepared for the deluge? You mentioned having other doctors, etc. help you. It would be.....revolutionary if we could come here and just ask these things that boggle and prey upon our minds!
Someone on my support website was asking about getting her complete breast cancer pathology report explained with her actual survival rate. This is what we all want to know, for example. Would you have a pathologist in mind who would do this? (I won't talk it up too much if you ask me not to, so you have a chance to get ready.)
Hope this didn't discourage you!
As you know, pathologists have their own terms. Personally I don't think that pathological details play a big role in survival. That's why the clinical stages were invented. To guide treatment and somehow categorize groups of patients in survival groups. That allows us to compare groups of patients with the same disease and different methods of treatment. I'd advise to try to not be to detailed about your labs, tests and reports. Leave that for the physicians who do that on a regular basis. I think that this may just bring more anxiety into context. It's like when you go to the machanic and ask him to explain exactly how he replaced part X, which parts had to be taken out of the way etc. In the end, what you really want to know is: which part was broken, how was it fixed in general terms, and how much it costs, if it may happen again and so forth.
You see, cancer is such a difficult disease to deal with, in my consultations I'd rather spend more time discussing how the patient and physician can work together to fight the disease, instead of explaining very difficult concepts that may not be of use at all to the patient.
Again, thanks for your support. You can let all your friends know about this. I'll be here
Janie - If there's fluid gathering somewhere after removal of your drain, it could be lymph fluid. Just in case your docs haven't mentioned lymphedema, you might want to read up on it. You can go to www.lymphnet.org for more info.
While oftentimes doctors don't think you're at risk if you only had a few nodes removed... the fact is that any change in the lymph system could put you at risk for lymphedema. While it may be mild lymphedema... it's always good to understand the risks, and what could cause it to flare up.