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What Is The Recovery Time For Breast Cancer Surgery

What Is The Timeline For Breast Reconstruction After A Cancer Diagnosis

Recovery From Breast Surgery

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 woman’s 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 woman’s personal choice, and reconstruction can be performed weeks, or even years, after having a mastectomy.

What Are The Surgical Options For Breast Cancer

The various surgical techniques differ in how much breast tissue is removed with the tumor. The technique that is used depends on how big the tumor is, where it is located, whether it has spread , and your personal feelings. The surgeon often removes some axillary lymph nodes as part of the operation; the lymph nodes are then tested to see if they have any cancer cells. This is done to help plan your treatment after surgery.

The breast surgeon will discuss your surgery options with you before the procedure. The surgeon may recommend a specific surgical procedure for you based on the size, location, or type of breast cancer you have. Some of the procedures the physician may discuss with you include lumpectomy, simple or total mastectomy, and modified radical mastectomy.

Lumpectomy This is also referred to as partial mastectomy. The surgeon removes the cancerous area and a surrounding margin of normal tissue. A second incision may be made in order to remove lymph nodes. This treatment tries to save as much of the normal breast as possible.

After the lumpectomy, the patient usually has a 4-5-week course of radiation therapy to treat the remaining breast tissue. . Most women who have small, early stage breast cancers are excellent candidates for lumpectomy.

Women who usually are not eligible for a lumpectomy include those who:

Surgery For Breast Cancer In Men

Most men with breast cancer have some type of surgery as part of their treatment. There are different types of breast surgery, and it may be done for different reasons, depending on the situation. For example, surgery may be done to:

  • Remove as much of the cancer as possible
  • Find out whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm
  • Relieve symptoms of advanced cancer

Your doctor may recommend a certain operation based on your breast cancer features and your medical history, or you may have a choice about which type to have. Its important to know your options so you can talk about them with your doctor and make the choice that is right for you.

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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.

Q How Long Do Implants Last

DIEP flap breast reconstruction: Procedure and recovery

A. Newer-generation gel implants will likely last the patients lifetime. I usually tell my patients that in 10 to 15 years, they may need another operation to revise or exchange their implants, Dr. Liu says. But no surgeon should provide a guarantee as to how long the implants may last. Patients may choose to have their implants exchanged later in life for a number of reasons, and most have nothing to do with problems with the implant itself.

But if a problem does arise, it is most often whats called capsular contracture, which occurs when a scar forms around an implant and squeezes it, making the breast feel hard. This condition is often treated with surgery to remove the scar and possibly replace the implant.

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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:

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:

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What To Expect After A Lumpectomy For Breast Cancer

Heres how many days you should set aside for recovery.

Surgery is just one treatment option for breast cancer, but its a common one: Most people I diagnose with breast cancer will have surgery at some point during their treatment, says Jaime Alberty-Oller, MD, breast cancer oncologist and surgeon at Dubin Breast Center, Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Its common for women to have many questions when a lumpectomy for breast cancer is recommended, according to Dr. Alberty-Oller. Many women are curious about how the surgery treats the cancer, how the breasts will look afterward, and the expected recovery time.

What Is a Lumpectomy?;

Lumpectomies are a type of breast surgery where, instead of removing all of the breast tissue , a portion of the breast is removed. The surgeon will remove the cancer, as well as a rim of normal tissue surrounding it, which is called the margin. A lumpectomy may also be called breast-conserving surgery,;quadrantectomy, partial mastectomy,;or;segmental mastectomy.;Learn more about types of breast cancer surgery here.

The goal of lumpectomy surgery is to take the cancer out and do the safest operation that we can,” says Dr. Alberty Oller.;The amount of breast tissue that’s removed during a lumpectomy depends;on the size and location of the tumor, your breast size, and other factors.

Lumpectomy Surgery: What to Expect

Side effects: Common side effects after a lumpectomy may include:

The Types Of Radiotherapy

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The type of radiotherapy you have will depend on the type of breast cancer and the type of surgery you have. Some women may not need to have radiotherapy at all.

Types of radiotherapy include:

  • breast radiotherapy;;after breast-conserving surgery, radiation is applied to the whole of the remaining breast tissue
  • chest-wall radiotherapy;;after a mastectomy, radiotherapy is applied to the chest wall
  • breast boost;;some women may be offered a boost of high-dose radiotherapy in the area where the cancer was removed; however, this may affect the appearance of your breast, particularly if you have large breasts, and can sometimes have other side effects, including hardening of breast tissue
  • radiotherapy to the lymph nodes ;where radiotherapy is aimed at the armpit and the surrounding area to kill any cancer that may be in the lymph nodes

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Who Is A Candidate For A Lumpectomy

Lumpectomy is typically recommended for women with newly diagnosed, early-stage breast cancers such as:

  • stage I breast cancer
  • DCIS

There are a few other factors that determine whether you are a good candidate:

  • your tumor is small relative to your breast size
  • your tumor is in one area of your breast
  • youre able to receive radiation treatments after lumpectomy

For women with larger tumors, MSKs breast cancer team also offers several approaches that can make lumpectomy possible.

  • MSKs medical oncologists can sometimes use chemotherapy to shrink the tumor first. This is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
  • In addition, our plastic surgeons may be able to perform partial breast reconstruction, also known as oncoplastic surgery, during your lumpectomy. When possible, this approach allows us to achieve a good cosmetic outcome for you without the need for a mastectomy.

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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Numbness And Tingling In The Upper Arm

You may have numbness or a tingling feeling in your upper arm. This is more likely if you had all the lymph nodes in your armpit removed. It is caused by swelling and damage to the nerves in your breast and armpit during or after the operation. It may slowly improve over a few months, but it can sometimes be permanent. Talk to your surgeon or specialist nurse if you are worried.

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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Surgical Risks And Complications

Every surgery has potential risks; some are more serious than others. Some mastectomy and reconstruction risks can affect recovery. Others can affect the type of scarring and appearance of the breast reconstruction. Some possible risks include:

  • Infection
  • Blood supply issues;that cause;the loss of a flap
  • Pain

Incision And Dressing Care

Your incision, or scar, has both stitches and steri-strips, which are small white strips of tape, and is covered by a gauze dressing and tape or a plastic dressing.

  • Do not remove the dressing, steri-strips or stitches. We will remove the dressing in seven to 10 days. We also will remove the sutures in one to two weeks unless they absorb on their own. If the dressing or steri-strips fall off, do not attempt to replace them.
  • You may shower one day after the drain is out and if you have a plastic dressing.
  • If you have gauze and paper tape, you may remove it two days after surgery and shower after that. Use a towel to dry your incision thoroughly after showering. Be careful not to touch or remove the steri-strips or sutures.
  • Bruising and some swelling are common in women after surgery.
  • A low-grade fever that is under 100 degrees Fahrenheit is normal the day after surgery.
  • You will have a Jackson-Pratt drain after your surgery. This drain is a plastic tube from under the skin to outside your body with a bulb attached to it. Empty the drain two to three times per day or when the bulb is full. Write down the amount drained on a sheet of paper. Your nurse will teach you how to empty your drain. An information sheet on JP drains is included in your binder.
  • A home care nurse may be assigned to check your progress at home.

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How Long Will I Stay In The Hospital After Breast Cancer Surgery

The length of stay in the hospital depends on the type of surgery and reconstruction that is performed. Generally, lumpectomies are done on an outpatient basis, and the patient recovers in a 23-hour, short-stay observation unit after the procedure.

Mastectomies with lymph node removal usually require a one- to two-night stay in the hospital; with tissue flap breast reconstruction, the stay may be 4-7 days.

Most women can resume driving 10 to 14 days after surgery. Please ask your surgeon for specific recommendations.

How Painful Is Mastectomy Recovery

4 Cornerstones to a Lumpectomy Recovery

Its common to have pain or discomfort after a mastectomy. Because everyone experiences pain differently, the intensity and duration can vary between individuals.

Your surgeon may prescribe a pain medication to take after you leave the hospital. Try to have a loved one get the prescription filled when youre on your way home, so youll have it on hand if you need it.

Its important to take all pain medications exactly as prescribed. Acute pain from a mastectomy will gradually go away as you heal.

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Are You Facing A Decision About Surgery For Dcis Or Breast Cancer

Do you have ductal carcinoma in situ or breast cancer that can be removed with surgery? If so, you may be able to choose which type of breast surgery to have. Often, your choice is between breast-sparing surgery and a mastectomy .

Once you are diagnosed, treatment will usually not begin right away. There should be enough time for you to meet with breast cancer surgeons, learn the facts about your surgery choices, and think about what is important to you. Learning all you can will help you make a choice you can feel good about.

What Are The Potential Risks Or Complications Of Lumpectomy

Every surgery has some risk. But lumpectomy is a common procedure that offers a high level of safety and effectiveness. Its less invasive than mastectomy, a breast cancer surgery that removes the entire breast.

Potential complications of lumpectomy surgery include infection, bruising and swelling in your arm or hand closest to the affected breast.

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Side Effects Of Mastectomy

The side effects of mastectomy can depend on the type of mastectomy you have . Side effects can include:

  • Pain or tenderness of the surgery site
  • Swelling at the surgery site
  • Buildup of blood in the wound
  • Buildup of clear fluid in the wound
  • Limited arm or shoulder movement
  • Numbness in the chest or upper arm
  • Nerve pain in the chest wall, armpit, and/or arm that doesnt go away over time. It is also called post-mastectomy pain syndrome or PMPS.
  • If axillary lymph nodes are also removed, other side effects such as lymphedema may occur.

As with all operations, bleeding and infection at the surgery site are also possible.

When To Call The Surgeon

Double mastectomy recovery: Tips and what to expect

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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What Is The Recovery Rate For Breast Cancer

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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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