- Cancer Information
- Managing side effects
- Breast prostheses and reconstruction
- Breast reconstruction
- What to expect after surgery
What to expect after surgery
The type of surgery you’ve had will affect the side effects you experience. Not all women experience these side effects, but most have one side effect or more.
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It’s natural to feel nervous when the bandages are first removed.
The look of the reconstructed breast will improve as the bruising and swelling lessen. It may take longer for the appearance of a breast reconstruction using a tissue flap to settle.
Your self-esteem is likely to be affected, see Body Image for ways to feel better about your body image.
For any type of operation, you will be given pain relievers to ease your discomfort.
You will also probably have small tubes inserted into the operation site so fluid can drain away.
If you have had a flap reconstruction, you will be sore in the area where the muscle and other tissue were taken, as well as in the breast area.
Sometimes there may be healing problems within the first week or so after surgery. This can be caused by infection, poor blood supply or problems with an implant.
Any infection must be treated to reduce the possibility of further complications. If an implant has been used, it might need to be taken out. However, it may be possible to have a new implant put in at a later date.
Blood may build up in or under the wound. This is called a haematoma, and it causes swelling and pain.
A large haematoma may need to be surgically removed.
In some cases, when drains have been removed, extra fluid collects in or under the wound. This is called a seroma, and it causes swelling and pain.
A seroma may need to be drained by a health professional using a needle.
All people heal differently and the final appearance of a scar will vary from women to women, even if the surgery is the same. Most scars have a thickened, red appearance at first, but usually fade after about three months.
Sometimes the scar stays thick and becomes itchy and uncomfortable. Let your surgeon know if you have other existing raised, irregular scars (sometimes called keloid scars), as this may show that you are prone to getting these types of scars. Your surgeon or breast care nurse can advise you about treatments to reduce the discomfort. You may be able to have further surgery to improve the scar’s appearance.
Breast reconstruction doesn’t affect your ability to become pregnant or carry a baby.
If you have had a TRAM flap reconstruction, mesh is put into the abdominal wall during surgery to help decrease the risk of a hernia during pregnancy.
It will not be possible to breastfeed with the reconstructed breast.
Most women can breastfeed successfully with their other breast, although this may be difficult if you have had a reduction surgery in this breast.
Talk to a breast care nurse or lactation consultant about any concerns you have about breastfeeding after a reconstruction.
A/Prof Elisabeth Elder, Specialist Breast Surgeon, Westmead Breast Cancer Institute and Clinical Associate Professor, University of Sydney, NSW; Jo Cockwill, Consumer;
Suzanne Elliott, Consumer; Bronwyn Flanagan, Breast Care Nurse, Brightways, Cabrini Hospital, VIC; Maina Gordon, Consumer; Gillian Horton, Owner and Corsetry Specialist, Colleen’s Post-Mastectomy Connection, ACT; Kerry Nash, Sales and Marketing Manager, Amoena Australia, NSW; A/Prof Kerry Sherman, Macquarie University and Westmead Breast Cancer Institute, NSW. We are grateful to Amoena Australia Pty Ltd for supplying the breast form images, which appear in this section. The breast reconstruction images have been reproduced with permission from Breast Cancer: Taking Control, breastcancertakingcontrol.com © Boycare Publishing 2010.
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