Care at Home

How do I care for the incisions?

Your incision will be closed with stitches. Small adhesive strips (steri-strips) may also be placed over the incision line. Gauze dressings will cover your incisions to provide some padding. Your surgeon will explain how to care for the incision and the dressings.

Do not shower until your surgeon tells you to do so. You may be told to wait to shower until after drainage tubes have been removed (see Drainage Tubes).

You may be wearing a supportive bra that closes in the front or you may have a binder wrapped around your chest to help keep the dressing in place. If you have one of these supports continue to wear it until your surgeon says you may remove it.

Some stitches are invisible and will dissolve over time. Others will be removed when you see your surgeon at the one-week-post-operative visit. If steri-strips have been placed over the incision do not remove them. They will fall off by themselves, usually when you shower.

Will I have drainage tubes?

If underarm lymph nodes were removed as part of your surgery, or if you had breast reconstruction, a drainage tube may have been placed under your arm. Their purpose is to assist in the healing process by draining away fluid that collects in the area of surgery. If you have had breast reconstruction using tissue from your stomach area (called a TRAM flap) you will also have drains placed in the stomach area.

Tubes are held in place with sutures. Sometimes general body movement can cause discomfort. Remember to keep the collection container pinned to your clothing to prevent pulling on the tubing. The drainage tubes will stay in place until your surgeon decides they are ready to be removed - usually between six days and three weeks. Simple written instructions for caring for the drainage tube(s) will be provided before you leave the hospital. Caring for these tubes at home is simple and quite safe. It may involve draining the tube and measuring the fluid. Your doctor or nurse will provide detailed instructions depending on the type of drain used.

Following Surgery

When Will I see my Surgeon After the Operation?

You will be given an appointment to see your surgeon about one week after surgery. Sutures and/or drains may be removed at this time.

When will the Pathology Report Be Ready?

Your pathology report will generally be ready in about one week from the date of your surgery. Your surgeon will discuss the results with you in detail, usually at the post-operative visit.

When Can I Shower?

Your surgeon will let you know when you may shower or bathe. If you have drains in place you may shower after they are removed, or according to your doctor's instructions. Ask your surgeon about using deodorant and shaving under your arm.

Should I Avoid Any Activities?

It is normal for you to tire easily while your body is healing. Be sure to include frequent rest periods each day during the first few weeks. Eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids. Short walks are encouraged to stimulate circulation and relieve stress.

Use your affected arm as normally as possible in your daily activities without causing discomfort. DO NOT do heavy lifting or strenuous activity for two weeks or longer, depending on the type of surgery. Avoid activities that involve reaching or stretching with your affected arm (for example vacuuming or scrubbing) for several weeks until your incisions have fully healed.

Be kind to yourself! Do things that give you satisfaction and let go of activities that are physically and emotionally draining. Resume your social, household and work activities gradually. You will soon be feeling better and stronger.

When Can I Drive?

How soon you can start driving depends on the type of breast surgery your reconstruction performed. Ask your surgeon when it is okay to drive.

When Can I Return To Work?

You may return to work as soon as you feel strong enough. At first working fewer hours in a day or fewer days in a week may help you to ease back into a full-time schedule.

When Can I Resume Sexual Relations?

Resume sexual relations as soon as you feel physically and emotionally ready.