Ask About Stretching And Workouts
Follow what your surgeon says about when you can stretch and resume workouts it varies depending on the reconstruction surgery.
Generally, you should not engage in heavy lifting, vigorous sports, and sexual activity for at least four to six weeks after surgery.
During your follow-up procedures, you can talk to your surgeon about when you can get back to regular activities.
Q Will I Be Able To Wear A Normal Bra Afterward
A. Whether you wear a surgical bra after your procedure will likely depend on your surgeons preference and the type of surgery you had performed. Some patients will benefit from wearing a compression bra around the clock for the first four to six weeks, but many will be advised not to, Dr. Liu says. Underwire bras and bras that dont provide much support generally arent recommended in the first six weeks after surgery.
What Is The Timeline For Breast Reconstruction After A Cancer Diagnosis
After a mastectomy, Dr. Tamburrino will use different techniques to create a breast that matches, as close as possible, in size, shape, and texture to a womans natural breasts. With reconstructive breast surgery, there is timing involved as it relates to each patient.
1. Immediate breast reconstruction is done at the same time as the mastectomy. Some women choose this option, when possible, to avoid the emotional and visual grief caused by losing a breast.
2. Delayed breast reconstruction, which means a patient will wait until a later date after completing treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation. With this option, women should wait at least six months after radiation, and four weeks after chemotherapy ends before considering breast reconstruction surgery. Delaying is a womans personal choice, and reconstruction can be performed weeks, or even years, after having a mastectomy.
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What To Wear After Surgery
One reason surgery can be intimidating is that you dont know how youll look when the scars have healed, and the swelling has gone down. Even with breast reconstruction, there may be changes to your appearance. Clothing can be a touchy subject. Not only will it fit you differently, but you will be sensitive for a time as your body heals.
Bras, in particular, will be difficult. Surgical bras are given and recommended in some situations, which offer some support while putting minimal pressure on incisions. They clasp in the front to avoid instigating the pain that comes from moving too much. A nurse can help adjust it easily while in the hospital, and it can be used to hand the drains to keep them out of the way of your arm.
In the first weeks after surgery, youll likely want to stick to bras or shirts like made in this way. Clasps, buttons, or ties in the fronts. Pants or skirts that can be easily stepped into. Nothing overly complicated or that has to be pulled over the head. This will pull on the arm and shoulder, and therefore the sensitive muscles beneath the breast. Advice commonly given by previous patients of breast cancer surgery recommend loose tops and shirts for a while. Give yourself time to adjust to your new appearance with some comfortable wear.
Breast Reconstruction Recovery Time
Many women who have had breast cancer eventually decide to have breast reconstruction. Whether you have breast implants or another procedure, breast reconstruction can give you a sense of being back to normal and make you feel more feminine.
But before you have breast reconstruction surgery, its essential to know as much as you can, including what the recovery will be like.
Learn more about the procedure and what to expect below. Keep in mind that some patients decide to have other procedures, such as a San Antonio breast lift, San Antonio tummy tuck, and San Antonio liposuction.
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Top 4 Tips For Recovery
1. Vitamins and Supplements
It may be tempting to empty the vitamin aisle at your store prior to breast surgery. However, you should discuss this with your oncologist, as certain vitamins can interact with medications that you may be prescribed. For example, vitamin C is known for its healing properties. However, it can reduce the effectiveness of tamoxifen, as well as various targeted therapies.
Vitamins and supplements may be recommended to treat nutritional deficiencies, especially if you suffer from cancer cachexia. Your provider can recommend specific supplements in these instances.
One supplement does seem to stand out, in all types of cancer: vitamin D. Many of us are deficient in vitamin D, regardless of our health status. It is likely that your provider may recommend a vitamin D supplement.
2. Take Medications Exactly as Prescribed
Though it may seem like a great option to use alternative treatments to ease pain and healing, you should also take your medications as prescribed by your surgeon specifically pain medications. When used as prescribed, pain medications are a great tool. They will keep you comfortable and allow you to perform the exercises as recommended and generally feel well during your recovery.
3. Select the Right Bra
4. Finding Support
What Are The Possible Complications After A Mastectomy
Like any surgery, theres a chance that some problems could occur after a mastectomy. About one in 10 women experiences a complication. Having a double mastectomy or breast reconstruction at the same time slightly increases your risk. Diabetes, excess weight, smoking and other medical problems can also increase your risk for a complication. Possible complications include:
- Buildup of blood or fluid under the wound.
- Burning or shooting pain in the chest, underarm or arm.
- Increased sensitivity in the scar area.
- Lumpy or painful scar tissue.
- Numbness in the scar area, chest, nipple or upper arm.
Another complication of mastectomy and lymph node surgery is lymphedema, which causes swelling in your arm. Approximately 20% of people develop lymphedema after a mastectomy with lymph node removal.
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What Happens Before Breast Cancer Surgery
You’ll consult with your healthcare team to decide the types of surgery best for you. Your health condition will determine your treatment options, and your personal preferences will help shape them. If you’re interested in breast reconstruction during or after breast cancer surgery, you’ll want to discuss these options in advance. Your overall cancer treatment plan may affect the timing and methods that’ll work best for you.
Commonly Asked Questions About Life After Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Many questions and concerns may be running through your mind before undergoing breast reconstruction surgery. How long will the procedure last? What will my reconstructed breasts look like? Will I be in pain afterward? No matter how prepared you are for surgery, you will still have questions for your doctor in the days that follow, and you should make sure to ask them before ever leaving the hospital, experts say.
Your surgeon should go over everything with you beforehand. But patients are often stressed and taking a lot in at that time. Plus, many of the recommendations vary from patient to patient and from surgeon to surgeon, and they also largely depend on what type of procedure the patient had. Aaron Pelletier, MD Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon at our hospital in Chicago
To help patients prepare for life after breast reconstruction, Dr. Pelletier and Daniel Liu, MD, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon at our hospital in Chicago, answer common questions about what to expect and what to do after surgery:
Breast Cancer Surgery And Wound Management
Youll leave the operating room with either a pad dressing or a clear sticky dressing. Your breast surgeon will normally ask you not to remove those yourself. The surgeon will do it at your first outpatient appointment and make sure theres no infection.
To close your wound, either sutures or surgical staples will be used. Most breast surgeons use stitches that dissolve over time after the operation. If yours are not disolvable, the surgeon will remove them during a follow-up visit.
Most wounds take several weeks to heal. Dont be alarmed if the affected area is bruised and swollen. Again, your breast surgeon will advise you on whats normal and whats not.
The surgeon will insert a wound drain, if needed, to remove fluid from the wound. It will be inserted in either the breast area or in the armpit and will stay there until fluid stops accumulating. Thats normally a few days after the operation.
Are Lymph Nodes Removed During A Lumpectomy
Women with invasive breast cancer typically have one or more lymph nodes taken from the underarm area during a lumpectomy. These nodes, called the sentinel nodes, are the first lymph nodes to which cancer cells would travel if they were to leave the breast. This is done so that your doctor can check to see if the cancer has spread.
Women with DCIS undergoing lumpectomy do not need to have lymph nodes removed.
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When Should I See My Healthcare Provider
Your healthcare team will schedule a follow-up appointment about one to two weeks after your surgery. During your appointment, theyll assess your condition, fill you in on any test results and plan the next steps in your treatment plan. Be sure to see your healthcare provider sooner if you experience any strange symptoms or complications following your surgery.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
For almost all types and stages of breast cancer, surgery will be an essential part of your treatment plan. There are several types of operations involved in breast cancer treatment, and most people will have more than one. Whether its to remove a tumor, to check for remaining cancer cells or to reconstruct your breast after removal, you and your surgeon will work closely together in the course of your treatment. Youll discuss your personal options and preferences at length to devise the best strategy for beating breast cancer with surgery.
- American Cancer Society. Surgery for Breast Cancer. Accessed 5/18/2022.
- American Society of Clinical Oncology . Breast Cancer: Types of Treatment. Accessed 5/18/2022.
- American Society of Clinical Oncology . What is Cancer Surgery? Accessed 5/18/2022.
- Breastcancer.org. Surgery. Accessed 5/18/2022.
- Cancer Research UK. Types of breast cancer surgery. Accessed 5/18/2022.
- Medscape. Surgical Treatment of Breast Cancer. Accessed 5/18/2022.
- News Medical. What Does a Quadrantectomy Involve? Accessed 5/18/2022.
Physical Activity & Exercise
- Start walking the night of your surgery to help reduce your swelling and risk of blood clots and constipation.
- For three to four weeks after surgery, avoid strenuous activity and repetitive arm motions, and do not lift, pull, or push anything over 10 pounds. This is so your incisions can heal properly.
- Begin stretching and performing range-of-motion exercises for your upper body three weeks after surgery.
When your surgeon clears you, you can resume your daily activities.
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Additional Risks For Women Who Smoke
Using tobacco narrows blood vessels and reduces the supply of blood, nutrients, and oxygen to tissues. Smoking can delay healing in any surgery and is linked to a higher chance of wound complications. This can cause more noticeable scars and a longer recovery time. Sometimes these problems are bad enough that a second operation is needed to fix them. You may be asked to quit smoking a few weeks or months before surgery to reduce these risks. This can be hard to do, so ask your doctor for help. Sometimes your plastic surgeon might choose to delay your surgery until you stop smoking.
What Is The Difference Between Lumpectomy And Mastectomy
Lumpectomy and mastectomy are both forms of treatment for breast cancer. It should be understood that lumpectomy is just an outpatient procedure. It involves only the removal of the tumor in the breast which is affected by cancer. Sometimes few lymph nodes may be removed which may be suspected to be affected by cancer. The patient may go home at the same day of the surgery. On the contrary mastectomy is a rather major surgery, which involves removal of the entire breast affected by the cancer. Mastectomy may be carried out in case of the failure of lumpectomy or when the cancerous tumor gets large enough that lumpectomy alone would not suffice. The patient will have to stay in the hospital for a day or two after the surgery for observational purpose. Mastectomy requires a longer duration of time for recovery than lumpectomy.
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What To Expect During Surgery
You will receive general anesthesia before your surgery, so youll be asleep during the procedure. Unless youve decided on a nipple-sparing surgery, the surgeon will remove as much of the tissue as possible from both your breasts. This includes the skin, nipple and areola.
Sometimes that also includes the lymph nodes from under the arm. The doctor may also remove part of the pectoral muscles, located under the breasts.
As part of the surgery, the surgeon will remove breast tissue and insert one or two tubes for fluid to drain into.
Sometimes breast reconstruction is performed at the same time as a mastectomy. Choices for reconstruction include breast reconstruction using breast implants or whats known as tissue flap surgery, which reconstructs the breast by using muscle, fat and skin taken from other parts of the body.
At the end of the surgery, the area is closed with stitches.
A woman who has undergone a mastectomy typically stays in the hospital for one or two nights.
When Can You Return To Work After Lumpectomy Surgery
The healing and recovery process after lumpectomy surgery is quicker when when you return to work and are back to your normal routine. Make sure that you are physically and emotionally read to go back to work.
Ask yourself or your doctor these questions before you go back to work and other usual acivities.
- Am I emotionally ready to go back to work and get back to your normal schedule?
- Am I physically ready to go back to work and get back to your normal schedule?
- What are the risks or complications if you go back to work and your normal schedule too soon?
- How much is lumpectomy surgery?
- Does your medical insurance cover the procedure?
- How much will your medical insurance cover after you have paid the deductable?
However, if you return to work and your normal routine too soon, it may add to more time to your healing and recovery time.
After a lumpectomy without a lymph node biopsy, you’re likely to feel well enough to return to work after two or three days. You can usually resume normal physical activities, like going to the gym, after one week.
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Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
In an axillary sentinel lymph node, the surgeon removes the first lymph nodes under the arm to which breast cancer cells may spread from the primary tumor location.
- Helps to evaluate the extent of disease and assists the oncologist in determining whether chemotherapy or radiation therapy is required
- Helps the surgeon determine whether an axillary lymph node dissection is needed
- May potentially avoid unnecessary removal of lymph nodes in the axilla, helping to reduce both the length of surgery and the risk of developing lymphedema, a condition in which fluids builds up in the extremities
Types Of Mastectomy Procedures
There are several types of mastectomy procedures:
- Total mastectomy. This method removes the whole breast, including the nipple, the colored ring around the nipple , and most of the overlying skin.
- Modified radical mastectomy. The entire breast is removed. This includes the nipple, the areola, the overlying skin, and the lining over the chest muscles. Some of the lymph nodes under the arm are also removed. Breast cancer often spreads to these lymph nodes. It can then spread to other parts of the body. In some cases, part of the chest wall muscle is also removed.
- Radical mastectomy. The entire breast is removed, including the nipple, the areola, the overlying skin, the lymph nodes under the arm, and the chest muscles under the breast. For many years, this was the standard surgery. But today it is rarely done. It may be advised when breast cancer has spread to the chest muscles.
Some newer mastectomy methods may offer more surgery options. But morestudies are needed to see if these methods work as well to fully removebreast cancer or stop from starting or coming back after treatment. Newermethods include:
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Mastectomy With Breast Reconstruction
Some women choose to have breast reconstruction to help restore the look of the breast that was removed.
Reconstruction may be done at the same time as the mastectomy or later . In general, cosmetic results are better with immediate reconstruction.
If you want reconstruction, find out if theres a plastic surgeon available who specializes in breast reconstruction. This may be important when making a decision about surgery. Discuss your reconstruction options with your plastic surgeon before your breast surgery.
Breast Cancer Surgery Recovery And Follow
The type of surgery depends on several different factors. Just as no two patients are alike, surgical plans and treatment are different for each person. At MD Anderson, patients work with their care teams to determine the proper treatment for them.
Just as the type of surgery patients need varies, so does the care and screening each patient needs after breast cancer surgery. To learn about recovery and follow-up care, we spoke with Matthew Piotrowski, M.D., a breast surgeon at MD Anderson The Woodlands.
What should breast cancer patients know about recovery from surgery?
Dont be alarmed about any lumps you feel in your breasts for about the first four weeks after surgery.
Now that tissue has been removed, there may be a lack of blood flow to portions of the breast and small areas of tissue may harden. These lumps and bumps may be massaged out to help with scarring. Scarring is a normal part of the healing process that typically takes over a year.
What screening and follow-up care should patients have after breast-conserving surgery?
What about patients who had a mastectomy or nipple-sparing mastectomy?
Does the type of breast reconstruction change recommendations?
The type of plastic surgery you undergo doesnt change these recommendations.
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