Se·ro·ma (s-rm)– n. A small sweet quick bread or biscuit of Italian origin, often incorporating dried fruits or nuts, traditionally served with afternoon coffee.
Se·ro·ma (s-rm) n. A mass or swelling caused by the localized accumulation of serum within a tissue or organ.
No points for guessing which one I had. One of those things many or most people get after a mastectomy or partial mastectomy, and no one remembered to warn me about (aside from Amy – thanks, Amy!).
Logical, really… you have an increase in fluid from the surgical trauma, and the very lymph nodes that would normally be dealing with fluid from that area are MIA, but there is a nice little space where they used to be. So the space fills up with fluid and, because it’s not really connected to the main drainage system anymore, that fluid tends to stick around. Since the reason those lymph nodes aren’t there anymore is that they were excised and that incision is still in the process of healing, this can be uncomfortable. To say the least.
I had felt the fluid building up under the incision in my armpit over the last few days and, since it was becoming decidedly uncomfortable, I decided it was time to call. So I did, first thing in the morning, and they got me set up with a 1:00 appointment, and I borrowed Debbie’s car and got myself up to the hospital.
There seem to be two main options in treating seromas – you can allow the body to figure it out, which it generally does eventually, and take care of the problem on its own timetable (some months later); or you can have the fluid aspirated out and attempt to keep pressure on the area in the future to help discourage further occurrences. I opted for the latter.
My armpit was swabbed down, and ultrasound used to determine the amount and location of the fluid buildup (the swelling was visible and palpable, but there could have been hidden pockets); the area was numbed with Lidocaine, and a larger needle was used to aspirate the fluid.
Well, that was the theory. The first try, there were obscenities, and more Lidocaine; the second attempt brought tears; and after the third try left me gasping and sobbing on the table, body clenched and trembling with the shock of pain, teeth chattering – we pretty much gave up on that particular method. Apparently, instead of the more usual numbness in the incision area, I have a sort of hypersensitivity and heightened pain response. It was intense, though short lived.
I will not do well under torture, by the way – had I known any state secrets they could have been yours for the asking at that point – and I can only hope the room was at least semi-soundproofed.
She did manage to get a fair amount of fluid out of the area through the use of alternative methods- since there was already a puncture hole from the needle, she simply put pressure on the seroma and expressed as much fluid* as possible, bandaged me up, and sent me on my way with a small pillow to tuck under my arm to help keep the pressure on. A lesser lump, to be sure, and that’s all for the good.
It quite distracted me from any other problems, must say… I slept the afternoon away. Even when it’s short lived, pain is exhausting.
* slightly pinked, straw colored, clear – because you know *I* had to know