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Axillary Web Syndrome (AWS)

What is Axillary Web Syndrome 

The Axillary Web Syndrome (AWS), is a well–recognised complication following surgical treatment for breast cancer which sometimes develops as a side effect of sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) or axillary lymph node dissection (ALND). During the operation, multiple lymph nodes are removed in the armpit and this may prevent the lymphatics (which were connected to the lymph nodes) from functioning, and as a result, going fibrotic (a type of scar tissue). These are also called dried lymph cords. These strands are formed in the armpit, the whole arm and/or in the chest area, and are palpable, and are (often) visible.

Complaints of Axillary Web Syndrome

These tender cords can cause pain and restrict the movements of the shoulder and arm, making it difficult to lift your arm and stretch your elbow.

Treatment method

Treatment for AWS or SLNB consists of special massage techniques by our physiotherapist or edema therapist, which gently stretches the cords and breaks them, if necessary. This gives a light crackling sound – that should not startle you, but then there’s instant relief.

The Axillary Web Syndrome (AWS) treatment or SLNB is often combined with MLD Vodder, Fascia Techniques and Cesar Therapies. Your therapist will discuss with you which treatment would be best in your situation.

Effects after treatment

After treatment, you immediately feel that your arm movement is improved, and the pain somewhat diminished or disappeared altogether. In addition, the risk of a rigid shoulder is reduced.


The costs will generally be reimbursed under your additional insurance and we have contracts with all health insurers.

Physical therapy is usually part of an edema or oncology treatment, which is often part of a chronic condition. There are other schemes. Your therapist or health care provider can provide more information. If you are not additionally insured, you pay for these treatments yourself.