What your breast looks like after surgery
Any bruising and swelling at the surgery area will usually improve after 2–3 weeks.
The position and size of the scar will depend on how much tissue is removed. If you have breast-conserving surgery, the scar is usually small and near where the cancer was or nearby. If you have a mastectomy, the scar will be across the skin of the chest. If you have surgery to the lymph nodes, the scar will be in the armpit. At first the scar will be firm, slightly raised and red. Over the next few months it will flatten and fade.
Changes to how your breast looks can affect how you feel about yourself (self-image and self-esteem). You may feel a sense of loss if you’ve had part of your breast removed or a mastectomy and find that your sense of identity has been affected.
Talking to someone who has had breast surgery might be helpful. Cancer Connect may be able to link you to someone who has had a similar experience to you. Speaking with a counsellor or psychologist for emotional support and coping strategies may also help. Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for details.
How your breast looks after surgery will depend on the type of surgery and how much tissue is removed. A range of individual factors such as your body shape and the size of your breasts will also affect appearance.
Ask your surgeon to show you some examples to help you choose the surgery that is right for you.
|Two years after surgery to left breast. The surgery was followed by radiation therapy.|
|Left breast removed, with no reconstruction.|
Nipple-sparing mastectomy with implant reconstruction
|Right breast removed with a nipple- sparing mastectomy, followed by reconstruction using an implant. If it is not possible to keep the nipple, there is the option of having a nipple reconstruction later.|
Mastectomy with a flap reconstruction
Right breast removed, followed by reconstruction using tissue from the back. A reconstruction can also be done with tissue from the abdomen, buttock or thigh. You can choose to have a nipple reconstruction later.
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.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment