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Breast Cancer (Dove Med Press). 2018 Dec 20;11:13-19. doi: 10.2147/BCTT.S146635. eCollection 2019.

Axillary web syndrome following breast cancer surgery: symptoms, complications, and management strategies.

Author information

1
Division of Physical Therapy, koeh0139@umn.edu.
2
Division of Rehabilitation Medicine, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Medical School, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA, koeh0139@umn.edu.
3
University of Minnesota, Masonic Cancer Center, Minneapolis, MN, USA, koeh0139@umn.edu.
4
Mayo Clinic, Division of Medical Oncology, Department of Oncology, Rochester, MN, USA.
5
Department of Radiology, Medical School, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA.
6
Department of Surgery, Medical School, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA.

Abstract

Axillary web syndrome (AWS) is a common condition occurring in up to 86% of patients following breast cancer surgery with ipsilateral lymphadenectomy of one or more nodes. AWS presents as a single cord or multiple thin cords in the subcutaneous tissues of the ipsilateral axilla. The cords may extend variable distances "down" the ipsilateral arm and/or chest wall. The cords frequently result in painful shoulder abduction and limited shoulder range of motion. AWS most frequently becomes symptomatic between 2 and 8 weeks postoperatively but can also develop and recur months to years after surgery. Education about and increased awareness of AWS should be promoted for patients and caregivers. Assessments for AWS should be performed on a regular basis following breast cancer surgery especially if there has been associated lymphadenectomy. Physical therapy, which consists of manual therapy, exercise, education, and other rehabilitation modalities to improve range of motion and decrease pain, is recommended in the treatment of AWS.

KEYWORDS:

Mondor’s disease; axillary lymphadenectomy; cording; rehabilitation

Conflict of interest statement

Disclosure The authors report no conflicts of interest in this work.

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