What to expect after breast surgery
If you have any questions about your recovery, ask the doctors and nurses caring for you. Many people are referred to a breast care nurse for information and support. How long you stay in hospital will depend on the type of surgery you have and how well you recover.
If you have breast-conserving surgery, you can usually go home the same day. If you have a mastectomy, you usually need to stay in hospital overnight. If you have a reconstruction after mastectomy, you will usually need to stay in hospital for several days.
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What to expect after surgery
Dressing and tubesA dressing will cover the wound to keep it clean. This will usually be removed after about a week. You may have one or more drainage tubes in place to drain fluid from the surgical site into a bag. These may remain in place for up to 10 days, depending on the type of surgery.
Some people are discharged from hospital with drains still in place, but this will depend on your situation and your doctor’s advice. Nurses will teach you how to look after the drains and wound at home, or a community nurse or your GP may help you care for the drains.
Moving your legsWhile you are in bed, you will be advised to move your legs to help prevent blood clots, and to walk around when you are able.
You may have to wear elastic (compression) stockings or use other devices to help prevent blood clots in the deep veins of your legs (deep vein thrombosis or DVT). Your doctor might also prescribe medicine that lowers the risk of clots.
Recovery timeThe time it takes to recover from breast surgery will depend on the type of surgery you’ve had. You may feel better after a few days, or it may take a few weeks or longer if you have a mastectomy with a reconstruction.
PainPain after breast-conserving surgery is not common. If you’ve had an axillary clearance dissection or mastectomy, you are more likely to have pain. You will be given pain relief through a drip (intravenous or IV), an injection or as tablets, and you will be given pain medicine when you go home.
Caring for your wound
After surgery, the wound will need extra care. If you have any questions, ask your health care team.
|bathe carefully||It’s okay for the dressing to get wet in the shower. Afterwards gently pat the wound dry with a soft, clean towel. It’s best not to have a bath.|
|avoid cuts||Talk to your treatment team if you want to shave or wax your armpits. They may advise you to wait for a short time.|
|follow-up||A wound infection can happen at any time. Report any redness, pain, heat, fever, swelling or wound discharge to your surgeon or breast care nurse. You may need antibiotics to manage the infection.|
|moisturise||Gently massage the area with moisturiser once the wound has completely healed.|
|don’t use deodorant||If the wound is under your arm, avoid using deodorant until it has completely healed.|
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Prof Bruce Mann, Professor of Surgery, The University of Melbourne, and Director, Breast Tumour Stream, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Marie Burke, Radiation Oncologist, and Medical Director GenesisCare Oncology, QLD; Dr Susan Fraser, Breast Physician, Cairns Hospital and Marlin Coast Surgery Cairns, QLD; Ruth Groom, Consumer; Julie McGirr, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; A/Prof Catriona McNeil, Medical Oncologist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Dr Roya Merie, Staff Specialist, Radiation Oncology, Liverpool Cancer Therapy Centre, Liverpool Hospital, NSW; Dr Eva Nagy, Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon, Sydney Oncoplastic Surgery, NSW; Gay Refeld, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Breast Care, St John of God Subiaco Hospital, WA; Genny Springham, Consumer.
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