Mastectomy - discharge
Now that you're going home, follow the surgeon's instructions on how to care for yourself at home.
Breast removal surgery - discharge; Nipple-sparing mastectomy - discharge; Total mastectomy - discharge; Simple mastectomy - discharge; Modified radical mastectomy - discharge; Breast cancer - mastectomy -discharge
When You're in the Hospital
Your surgery was one of these:
What to Expect at Home
Full recovery may take 4 to 8 weeks. You may have shoulder, chest, and arm stiffness. This stiffness gets better over time and can be helped with physical therapy.
You may have swelling in the arm on the side of your surgery. This swelling is called lymphedema. The swelling usually occurs much later and it can be a problem that lasts. It can also be treated with physical therapy.
You may go home with drains in your chest to remove extra fluid. Your surgeon will decide when to remove these drains, usually in a week or two.
You may need time to adjust to losing your breast. Talking to other women who have had mastectomies can help you deal with these feelings. Ask your health care provider about local support groups. Counseling can help as well.
You can do whatever activity you want as long as it does not cause pain or discomfort. You should be able to resume your usual activities in a few weeks.
It is OK to use your arm on the side of your surgery.
Ask your surgeon when you can return to work. When and what you can do depends on your type of work and whether you also had a lymph node biopsy.
Ask your surgeon or nurse about using post-mastectomy products, such as a mastectomy bra or a camisole with drain pockets. These can be bought in specialty stores, the lingerie section of major department stores, and on the internet.
You may still have drains in your chest when you go home from the hospital. Follow instructions on how to empty and measure how much fluid drains from them.
Stitches are often placed under the skin and dissolve on their own. If your surgeon used clips, you will go back to the doctor to have them removed. This usually takes place 7 to 10 days after surgery.
Care for your wound as instructed. Instructions may include:
Managing Your Pain
Your surgeon will give you a prescription for pain medicines. Get it filled right away so you have it available when you go home. Remember to take your pain medicine before your pain gets severe. Ask your surgeon about taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen for pain instead of narcotic pain medicine.
Try using an ice pack on your chest and armpit if you have pain or swelling. Do this only if your surgeon says it is OK. Wrap the ice pack in a towel before applying it. This prevents cold injury of your skin. DO NOT use the ice pack for more than 15 minutes at a time.
When to Call the Surgeon
American Cancer Society website. Surgery for breast cancer. www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/treatment/surgery-for-breast-cancer.html. Updated August 18, 2016. Accessed March 20, 2019.
Elson L. Post-mastectomy pain syndrome. In: Frontera, WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD, Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal Disorders, Pain, and Rehabilitation. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 110.
Hunt KK, Mittendorf EA. Diseases of the breast. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 34.
Review Date: 3/12/2019
Reviewed By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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