Prior to surgery, patients can begin making plans for childcare, meal preparation, shopping, work requirements, and more. As mastectomy is an invasive procedure, patients may experience pain and fatigue after surgery. Having various plans in play well before the surgery date can relieve some stress and help patients focus on their recoveries.
Purchase comfortable clothing that will be loose around the arms and chest. Zip-up tops or those with front buttons afford easy access. Some women also opt to get fitted for post-op garments, including a lymphedema sleeve. Lymphedema is a swelling of the area, and it is a common side effect. It is helpful to be prepared before such items are needed.
Mastectomy surgeries typically last between two and three hours. Some may last longer if reconstruction is performed at the same time. Patients will be admitted to a hospital stay for a day or two and moved to a recovery room, and will need to be driven home upon discharge.
Expect to be bandaged and possibly have a surgical drain at the wound site. The nonprofit resource Breastcancer.org says the drain usually remains in place one to two weeks after surgery.
Fluid will have to be emptied from the detachable drain bulb a few times per day. Sutures that are dissolvable will not require removal.
Patients should follow the recovery plans outlined by their doctors. Rest is most important during this time, so do not overdo exercise or other activities, although some movements to relieve shoulder stiffness may be advised.
Pain, numbness, itching, and myriad other symptoms may occur. Take pain medications only as needed and directed. Weakness is expected in the arms and shoulders. Ask for help lifting, moving or picking up items.
Emotional side effects can be just as profound as physical ones. Fear of the cancer, body image issues and a sense of loss can occur. Having a strong support team can help, as can speaking with a professional counselor.
It can take several weeks to start feeling like oneself again after mastectomy surgery. Women should not hold themselves up to anyone else’ s standards and be patient and hopeful because this challenging time is temporary. Learn more at Breastcancer.org.