Your Breast Surgery: What to Expect

To help you prepare for your breast surgery, learn what you can expect several days and weeks before your surgery, what will happen the day of, and how you can best recover in the days and weeks to follow.

For additional information, read the FAQ.

Preparing for Surgery

Several Weeks Before Surgery

Your surgeon may order blood tests, a chest x-ray, an electrocardiogram, or other exams. Your doctor will also conduct a physical examination to measure you baseline health. This is a good time to ask them any questions you may have about your surgery.

You should also tell your doctor about any medications you’re taking in case you have to stop them before your surgery. All aspirin-like drugs should be discontinued for 10 days prior to surgery. You should also avoid high doses of vitamin E, C, and Ginkgo biloba since they can interfere with blood clotting during surgery.

Day Before Surgery

You should not eat or drink anything starting at midnight the night before your surgery. If you eat or drink anything after midnight your surgery may be cancelled.

The day before your surgery, you will receive a telephone call from the hospital. (If your surgery is scheduled for a Monday, you will receive a call on a Friday.) You will be asked to arrive two hours before your scheduled surgery.

Your Surgery

Before Arriving

Shower and brush your teeth as usual (but do not swallow). Bring all your medications, along with a list of their names and how often you take them. You should also pack a loose shirt you can button in the front that you can wear home. 

Remove all jewelry, makeup, nail polish, and contact lenses. Do not bring money or anything of value.

Checking In

Please arrive on time and report to where your pre-operative phone call directed you.

You will be escorted to the surgical waiting area, where we will provide you with a locker for your clothes. We will also give you a hospital gown, bathrobe, and slippers to change in to. You can relax in this comfortable room with one or two family members.

A nurse will place a hospital ID band on your wrist and take some preliminary measurements, such as your temperature. They will review the surgical plan with you, then ask you to verify the procedure and confirm the correct side. The surgery site will be marked as needed. You will also speak briefly with the surgeon and the anesthesiologist. 

Finally, an intravenous (IV) line will be started in a vein in your arm. This allows the medical staff to deliver fluid and medication directly into your bloodstream. The IV will remain during surgery and for a while after surgery.

In the OR

You will be asked to remove any dentures, eyeglasses, and wigs. Your family will move to the family waiting area at this time. 

You will then be escorted to the OR, where you will meet the surgical team. You’ll be connected to a heart monitor, your blood pressure will be taken, and a small clip will be placed on your finger to measure your blood oxygen level.


Before undergoing surgery, you will receive anesthesia. The type of anesthesia will depend on the surgery and your own personal preferences.

  • Local Anesthesia: The operative area is numbed so that you will not feel pain. This is commonly used for lumpectomies, wide excisions, and segmental resections. Local anesthesia is often accompanied by a sedative to reduce anxiety.
  • General Anesthesia: You will sleep deeply during the surgery and there may be a breathing tube placed in your throat.

You will be monitored by an anesthesiologist at all times.


To learn more about the different types of surgical procedures we offer, see the following articles:

  • Intraductal Papillomectomy
  • Lumpectomy
  • Lymph Node Removal
  • Mastectomy
  • Oncoplastic Breast Surgery

After Surgery

Hospital Recovery

After surgery, you will be taken to the recovery room (PACU), where you will be observed while you recover from the anesthesia. We will notify your family members that your surgery is over. 

If you are going home on the day of your surgery, you will be transferred to the Ambulatory Recovery Room. Family members can visit you there and discharge instructions will be given to you before you are sent home. All Ambulatory Patients are required to have an adult escort to take them home. 

If you are staying overnight, you will be taken to one of the hospital units. Your family can visit you in your hospital room.

Home Care

Depending on your type of surgery, your surgeon will send you home with specific instructions for how to take care of any incisions, dressing, or drainage tubes you have. Following these instructions closely will help you recover as quickly as possible. 

In general, rest frequently and avoid strenuous activities for at least two weeks. Try to use your affected arm normally in your daily activities as long as it does not cause any discomfort. Take short walks to stimulate circulation and relieve stress, and drink plenty of fluids while eating a well-balanced diet.

See the FAQ for more detailed information about home care.

Follow Up

You will see your surgeon about one week after your surgery During this appointment, they will discuss your pathology report with you in detail. Any sutures and/or drains may be removed at this time.