Axillary web syndrome happens when a band or bands of tight connective tissue form in your arm , armpit and chest wall, following surgery, radiation or chemotherapy for breast cancer. These adhesions affect lymphatic, vascular and muscular tissue.
Those that experience AWS (also known as cording) do so immediately after surgery or up to 2-3 months later. It appears in just under 30% of breast cancer patients, and is can be concurrent with the onset of lymphedema symptoms.
The cording from axillary web syndrome causes localized pain, creating difficulties reaching, lifting and extending your arm. It also pulls on the structures of the arm and chest wall, impacting ligaments, muscles, and nerves, and causing sharp, tingling or aching pain, with a feeling of tension and constriction.
Axillary web syndrome generally resolves itself within a few months without treatment, but can reoccur. A brief course of MLD therapy should shorten that healing timeline from months to several weeks and avoid further cording.