My lymph nodes are the pits!
July 23, 2009 8:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm about to schedule my third sonogram on some lymph nodes. But when should I do it? Anyone else have their armpit lymph nodes removed for biopsy? I'm trying to plan two major travel/vacation events around this as well.

Okay, first let me state that these irregularities were discovered during my annual mammogram screening. About six months ago I had my annual mammogram, everything looked ok, then the doctor decided to check my armpits.

The lymph nodes there were irregular and swollen and black. I was told they should look like oreos on the scan, i.e. have some white stuff in the middle. Mine did not. I assumed it was because I was still on antibiotics/meds from the infection I'd had earlier this year that landed me in the hospital.

The doctor scheduled another scan for three months forward, got that done, and AGAIN the lymph nodes show up as irregular, black, swollen. However, they are symmetrical on either side. They have not changed in shape or grown, from what anyone can tell. I have had intense stress over the past few months (multiple family deaths, selling a house, legal and financial issues, etc.). So these irregularities may be stress-related. I had planned for a while to totally relax the week before my next scan; i.e., no coffee, lots of sleep, no excessive workouts, no junk food, etc. But this may not be enough.

I just got the letter in the mail stating that I need to have my third sonogram by the 17th of August. Complication: I am moving for the coming week, then the first week of September, I'm going on vacation with my mother to Canada for 10 days.

My concern is this: During the last scan, the doctor told me that the only way to be sure that these irregularities were not pre-cancerous was to do a biopsy on either side. She said they couldn't do the procedure with a needle; rather, I'll have to schedule day surgery and they'll simply cut open both armpits and remove 3-4 lymph nodes from either side. So, since the scans have been consistent, I am worried that scan 3 will automatically lead to the surgery. I'm not confident that scan 3 will suddenly show "oreos" when the past 2 scans have been irregular.

My gut tells me to get this over with quicker vs. waiting, but I'm scared that if I schedule the scan for the time between the move and the vacation, I'll have to have the nodes removed immediately and I'll have to take more time off to recover before the vacation, which is not going to be possible with my current job.

Has anyone else had this same procedure? How long did it take, and what was your recovery like? I can't take off three weeks within a five-week period, obviously. Health-wise, I will be more relaxed and able to deal with it after I come back from vacation the 2nd week of September, but I'm also worried about waiting that long to deal with it.

Recommendations? Personal experiences? What can I expect, and should I do it sooner vs. later? I don't think I have cancer or anything, I just believe the doctor is being extra-careful.
posted by Unicorn on the cob to Health & Fitness (4 answers total)
Do I understand that you're betting on not having anything important; it's been "x" long, so a bit longer doesn't matter? And your not scheduling it because it may impact your immediate plans?

Go ahead and have the scan. Why? Because, the rest of the stuff will be much less important if there is an actual problem. For real. It's amazing how you can revise your priorites if something big comes up. If there is no problem, then you don't have to worry about it!

No, I haven't had any such procedure, but, believe strongly in listening to your gut because it's telling you to go ahead and have the scan.
posted by mightshould at 9:30 AM on July 23, 2009

No personal experiences, but recently a couple friends had lymph nodes removed (one from his neck, another from near her collar bone) and both were back to work within 2 days. My understanding is that it really is a small and simple procedure, and you likely won't need much recovery time before keeping up with regular activies again. So have the ultrasound done, and get the whole thing over with! My feeling is, better to be a little sore and recovering on vacation, than to have the weight of the unknown hanging over you the whole time!
posted by dorey_oh at 12:08 PM on July 23, 2009

Best answer: I've had enlarged lymph nodes removed before but they were behind my ears, not in my armpits. I don't know the anatomy of the lymph nodes around the armpits that well, but the procedure sounds similar. My lymph nodes were hard and enlarged and right below the skin. The surgeon opened the skin and removed the nodes.

I don't remember the preparation instructions too well, but I remember something about not eating for several hours before the procedure and no painkillers before the procedure either. I spent about 4 hours at the hospital, mostly waiting with an IV in my hand. The procedure took an hour; at least, that's what they told me. Obviously, I was completely out, and it did not seem like time had passed after I woke up. I left about 15 minutes after waking up.

My doctor gave me a prescription for Darvocet but I never took it because it was not painful. I slept off the effects of the anesthesia that day. The next day I felt fine, maybe just a little groggy after waking up. I had a huge bandage around my head that was removed the day after the procedure. The sutures were removed a week or two later. Three months later I had the same procedure on the other side of my body. Everything was as before. (I was 20 at the time, by the way.)

I didn't have any complications. I only lost 1 day -- the day of the procedure -- and I felt fine in the subsequent days. The initial biopsy results came back a week later; for me, it was basically lymphoid hyperplasia. I would not wait if I were you. You'll feel better knowing the results.
posted by mathlete at 8:05 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update: Everything is normal, thanks to all for encouraging me to have the tests done sooner vs. later! Very happy right now.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:23 PM on August 10, 2009

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