Surgery, What to Expect

  • It helps to prepare yourself emotionally and physically for breast cancer surgery and the loss of your breast (s). Also, recovery from reconstructive surgery is similar.
  • Breast surgery generally can be a 1 day out-patient or extended stay in-patient for Lumpectomy or several days in-patient for Mastectomy depending on your general health condition.
  • Some hospitals give patients a special garment called a “Softee” and a temporary prosthesis for mastectomy patients to wear home, or you can order one if available.
  • You will have pain and limited movement after surgery in the breast and chest area, under your arms and even in your back. Be careful and give yourself time to heal.
  • Wear loose and comfortable clothing and shirts.
  • Keep the surgical site clean and dry as possible.
  • You may have drainage tubes that will be removed in about 2 weeks after surgery. (PS: Drainage tube removal can be uncomfortable.)
  • Look at yourself in the mirror when you are ready. You may be a bit shocked so it helps to share this time with someone who will be there to reassure you.
  • Everyone’s cancer experience is different. Their type of cancer is different, treatments will be different, and surgeries will look different depending on the location of the tumor and size of the breasts. How long it takes to heal or recover is decided by each person’s body, type of breast cancer and treatments.
  • Do not drive, carry or lift heavy objects, and no cleaning, mopping, or vacuuming with your surgical arm until your doctor approves it about 6 weeks later. Doing heavy and repetitive activities can cause arm swelling, fluid build-up, lymph edema, nerve pain, and wound infection.
  • Discuss other types of breast surgeries with your doctors such as reconstructive surgery.
  • Surgical scars and numbness will take years to heal and fade. Using a gentle cream or shea butter daily on the scars will help them heal and break down the connective tissue alleviating tightness.
  • Wait until you heal from surgery to be fitted for a post mastectomy bra and prosthesis and to have a more comfortable experience.