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.

Learn more about:

Appearance of breast

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.

Pain relief

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.

Healing problems

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.

This information was last reviewed in June 2017
View who reviewed this content
View our editorial policy

Support services

Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum

Cancer Council Online Community
A community forum – a safe place to share stories, get tips and connect with people who understand

Cancer information

Learn more about chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells

What is cancer?
How cancer starts and spreads