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How Long To Recover From Breast Cancer Surgery

How Long Does It Take To Recover From A Mastectomy

How long does it take to recover from breast cancer surgery?

The bigger the operation, the longer the recovery time. Its typical to stay in the hospital for one day after a total mastectomy. Within about four weeks, youll probably be comfortable doing all of your regular daily activities.

You may need a longer hospital stay if the surgery you had was more involved, like a mastectomy with breast reconstruction using your own body tissue It can take a few months to feel fully recovered.

How Long Is The Recovery For A Breast Augmentation

Increasing your breast size with a breast augmentation is a major procedure that requires a lot of pre-surgery prep and post-surgery recovery. Like any surgery, taking care of your body and listening to your doctor’s medical advice is most important to have a successful outcome.

If you have ever wondered how long it takes to recover from breast augmentation, continue reading to get an idea of what to expect during postoperative breast augmentation care.

Chronic Pain After Mastectomy

Some individuals may develop chronic pain following a mastectomy. A 2018 observational study estimated that 20 to 30 percent of people who undergo breast surgery experience some type of chronic pain.

Chronic pain after mastectomy happens due to nerve damage. Its most often felt in the areas of the chest wall, armpit, or arm.

In addition to general pain or discomfort, its possible to feel:

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Breast Prostheses And Bras

My Boob is Trying to Kill Me Part II: Mastectomy and ...

Following mastectomy, all women who have not had immediate breast reconstruction are offered an external prosthesis. This is a silicone breast form which is funded by the Ministry of Health. The grant also covers pocketed bras to hold a prosthesis. A lightweight temporary prosthesis is usually provided by your breast care nurse, to wear for the first six weeks while the wound is healing.

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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.

Weeks And Months After Lumpectomy

As nerves regrow, you may feel a weird crawly sensation, you may itch, and you may be very sensitive to touch. Your discomfort may go away by itself, or it may persist but you adapt to it. Acetaminophen or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen usually can address the pain related to this type of nerve injury. Opioids also can be used to treat this type of pain.

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Q How Long Does It Take For Swelling To Go Down And For The New Breast To Reach Its Final Size And Shape

A. Each person is different, and much of the recovery process depends on the type of procedure performed. That said, it usually takes about three to six months for swelling to subside and for your breast to achieve a final shape, but it may take longer, particularly for patients who received radiation therapy for breast cancer treatment. Radiation permanently damages tissue at the microscopic level, which makes it harder for tissue to heal.

Also, keep in mind that final breast shape is often affected by gravity and tissue elasticity.

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What Is Lumpectomy Recovery Like

Breast Cancer Surgery and Recovery

Recovery from a lumpectomy is different for every woman. Healing time after surgery can range anywhere from a few days to a week.

  • After a lumpectomy without a lymph node biopsy, youre 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.
  • After a lumpectomy with a lymph node biopsy, you may need to take up to a week off from work to recover.

As you are healing, you may feel several different sensations in your breast. Some common examples include tenderness, numbness, and twinges. These sensations usually come and go, and will lessen over time, usually within the first few months after surgery. As you continue to heal, you may feel scar tissue along your incision site. It will feel hard. This is common and should soften over the next several months.

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Possible Side Effects Of Breast

As with all operations, bleeding and infection at the surgery site are possible. Other side effects of breast-conserving surgery can include:

  • Pain or tenderness or a “tugging” sensation in the breast
  • Temporary swelling of the breast
  • Hard scar tissue and/or a dimple that forms at the surgical site
  • Swelling of the breast from a collection of fluid that might need to be drained
  • Change in the shape of the breast
  • Neuropathic pain in the chest wall, armpit, and/or arm that doesnt go away over time. This can also happen in mastectomy patients and is called post-mastectomy pain syndrome or PMPS.
  • If axillary lymph nodes are also removed, other side effects such as lymphedema may occur.

Re: Recovery Time For Breast Cancer

Thanks Max. My consultant told me when I went back for the results of the biopsy what grade it was and that the FNA from the lymph node was positive, therefore had spread, but they believed only to the one node, but wish to remove all of the nodes to be cautious. The MRI I had last Saturday showed that there were more lumps, however they were consistent with benign lumps, although the scan showed lots of cysts in both breasts that they were not worried about at all. I guess for me it will be once they decide on treatment and how often the treatment is. The tumour at the ultrasound was 1.4cm, however the MRI scan confirmed it was now 2cm! This time next week it will be gone, hopefully! Many thanks for your reply. X

Hi Scooby, hope all goes well for you on Tuesday!

I have my MRI tomorrow as there is a variance from my mammogram and the ultrasound so in order for me/consultant know which op to have but I have been told that recovery from surgery is around 2 4 weeks but then it all depends on what other treatment would be needed. My tumour is grade 2 but we wont know the stage until the pathology is done. I have also been told that ultrasound is normally more accurate than mammogram however your post has scared me a bit in that you say the mri showed up bigger, is that correct???

Keep us posted on your progress


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Wearing A Bra Or Prosthesis

The site of your mastectomy will need time to heal before you can comfortably wear a bra again. Your surgeon will talk with you about when this may be possible.

If you had a mastectomy without breast reconstruction, youll be given a prosthesis to wear. This is a soft, lightweight breast form that can be worn inside your bra.

Most people recover from a mastectomy without complications. However, its important to be aware of the signs of a potential complication so that you can seek help.

Contact your doctor promptly if you have:

  • bleeding from the surgical site thats more than you were told to expect
  • redness, swelling, or pain around your incision
  • pus draining from your incision
  • symptoms of a serious blood clot, such as:
  • an area thats red, tender, or feels warm to the touch
  • unexplained swelling around the surgical site, which could be signs of a seroma or hematoma
  • persistent swelling in your arm or hand, which can be a sign of lymphedema
  • Looking for help in planning your mastectomy recovery? Weve assembled some tips below to help you get started.

    How Can Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Speed Up Radiation Recovery

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    Hyperbaric oxygen therapy makes it possible to minimize and even reverse your radiation symptoms. It uses powerful 100% oxygen at pressures above regular atmospheric pressure to stream oxygen through your bloodstream.

    The pressure of HBOT drives oxygen not just into the bloodstream, but also into lymph tissue, bone tissue, red blood cells, and other critical locations. Since oxygen is critical for all healing functions, HBOT can reduce cell death, relieve pain, stimulate new growth of blood vessels, and boost circulation.

    As a result, tissues damaged by radiation or suffering from nutrient deficiencies can quickly become revitalized and enhanced. The oxygenation that occurs during HBOT promotes cellular growth that combats the harmful effects of radiation therapy and helps you recover more efficiently.

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    Stiff Shoulder Or Arm

    After a mastectomy or having the lymph nodes removed, your shoulder or arm may feel sore or stiff. Your physiotherapist or nurse will show you arm exercises to do. This will help improve the movement in your shoulder and arm, and reduce the risk of long-term problems. Breast Cancer Care have a leaflet about these exercises.

    When To Call The Surgeon

    When you go home from the hospital after surgery, call your surgeon if you have:

    • Swelling in your arm or hand, near the incision or under your arm .
    • A fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
    • Increased drainage from the surgical drain
    • Increased pain not controlled with the pain medication
    • Other physical problems such as loss of appetite, changes in menstrual periods, or blurred vision. It is important to also report dizziness, shortness of breath, coughing or hoarseness, headaches, or digestive problems that seem unusual or that dont go away

    Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/22/2015.


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    How Long Your Surgery May Take

    With enabling conditions, some breast reconstructions could happen at the same time as your mastectomy. Should there be a need for tissue expansion it could take a couple of months of regular appointments to gain enough tissue size that could cover an implant.

    In order words, a need for tissue expansion could tremendously increase the time itll take to complete your entire reconstruction process. Having to reconstruct either one or both breasts will also impact the timing in as much as the type of planned reconstruction .

    Depending on the reconstruction method thats applicable to you, it could take between 3 to 12 hours including the preparation.

    Recovery After Breast Reconstruction Surgery

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    The healing process with breast reconstruction surgery varies with each patient. In general, patients should expect to feel tired and exhausted for the first 2 3 weeks. Moderate bruising and swelling will occur and is normal for the first few weeks after surgery. Some swelling and inflation may even occur with an increase in physical activity for up to three months. For the first six months, patients should expect their breasts to appear more significant due to swelling and be firmer to the touch. They can even feel lumpy due to some scar tissue. If a woman opts for nipple reconstruction at the same time, it will appear large at first but then will eventually decrease with time. Other aspects patients need to consider with recovery are:

    Breast reconstruction surgery is a process and can take months to fully recover, but it also helps decrease the physical and emotional impact of a mastectomy or lumpectomy. If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, have a congenital defect, or been involved in an accident that affects the appearance of your breasts, then we encourage you to call Dr. Joseph Tamburrino today for help. You can schedule a consultation at Tamburrino Plastic Surgery & Med Spa in Doylestown, PA.

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    Recovering From A Mastectomy: What To Expect

    In general, women having a mastectomy stay in the hospital for 1 or 2 nights and then go home. How long it takes to recover from surgery depends on what procedures were done, and some women may need help at home. Most women should be fairly functional after going home and can often return to their regular activities within about 4 weeks. Recovery time is longer if breast reconstruction was done as well, and it can take months to return to full activity after some procedures.

    Ask your health care team how to care for your surgery site and arm. Usually, you and your caregivers will get written instructions about care after surgery. These instructions typically cover:

    Was All The Cancer Removed

    During BCS, the surgeon will try to remove all the cancer, plus some surrounding normal tissue. This can sometimes be difficult depending on where the cancer is located in your breast.

    After surgery, a doctor, called a pathologist, will look closely at the tissue that was removed in the lab. If the pathologist finds no invasive cancer cells at any of the edges of the removed tissue, it is said to have negative or clear margins. For women with DCIS, at least 2mm of normal tissue between the cancer and the edge of the removed tissue is preferred. If DCIS cancer cells are found near the edges of the tissue , it is said to have a close margin. If cancer cells are found at the edge of the tissue, it is said to have a positive margin.

    Having a positive margin means that some cancer cells may still be in the breast after surgery, so the surgeon often needs to go back and remove more tissue. This operation is called a re-excision. If cancer cells are still found at the edges of the removed tissue after the second surgery, a mastectomy might be needed.

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    What To Expect From Recovery

    You can expect temporary soreness in your chest, underarm and shoulder, as well as possible numbness across your chest that may be permanent.

    The surgical drains that were inserted inside your breast area during surgery typically stay in for about one week to 10 days.

    While recovering from surgery, most people have some pain. Recovery times vary depending on the specifics of your double mastectomy.

    • After a mastectomy without breast reconstruction, it can take three to four weeks to feel mostly normal.
    • If you also have breast reconstruction, recovery can take six to eight weeks.
    • For some procedures, it can take months before you can return to being fully active.

    You’ll likely receive a written list of instructions about post-surgical care that includes:

    • How to care for the surgery site and dressings
    • How to recognize signs of infection
    • Tips for bathing and showering after surgery
    • When you can use your arm again
    • Arm exercises to prevent stiffness
    • Restrictions on activity

    Other Things That Could Affect Surgery

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    Tobacco: If you smoke, your surgeon may ask you to stop before surgery. Using tobacco tightens blood vessels and reduces the supply of oxygen to your body tissues. Smoking can delay healing and recovery. It can also increase the risk of complications after surgery.

    Diet and alcohol: Being overweight or obese may affect surgery and recovery. Your surgeon may ask you to improve your diet, lose weight, or actively exercise before surgery. You may be advised to stop drinking alcohol, too.

    Medications: Often the surgeon will ask you to stop taking certain medications, such as anti-inflammatory pain medications and blood thinners. This is because those medications can increase your risk of bleeding during the surgery.

    Other drugs: Be sure to tell your doctor and surgeon about all medications, including vitamins, supplements, and marijuana or street drugs you may use. Some of these may lead to problems before and after surgery.

    Anesthesia history: You will probably be asked if you or your family members have had problems in the past with anesthesia. This is because there are things that can be done to prevent problems, such as nausea, vomiting, and being overly sleepy after getting anesthesia.

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    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.
    • Infection.
    • 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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