Recovery from breast cancer surgery
The following points will be of benefit to those women who have been operated upon for breast cancer:
1. There may be a dry gauze dressing over the incision when you leave the hospital. It is not necessary to change this dressing until you return to see your doctor.
2. A small dry dressing will be around the site where drain is placed. Often there is some leakage of fluid around the drain. Check the gauze dressing from drainage and change if it becomes soaked. If it soaks more than once a day, call your doctor.
3. You can expect to see about 30-50 ml of fluid drained out of your wound in 24 hours.
4. Drains are generally removed at the same time as sutures which is 7-10 days after surgery.
5. You can take sponge baths or tub baths making certain that the area of the drain and incision stay dry. You may shower after stitches and drains are removed.
6. You can begin using your arm for normal activities like eating or combing your hair. Exercises involving the wrist, hand, and elbow as explained in post mastectomy exercises can be started. Women can resume more strenuous exercises after the drains have been removed.
7. You can expect some discomfort or mild pain after surgery, but within 4-5 days most women will have no need for pain medications.
8. Numbness over the area of surgery and along the inner side of arm from the armpit to elbow occurs in virtually all women. It is the result of injury to the nerves that provide sensation to the skin of those areas. There may be heaviness, pain, tingling, burning and pins and needles. These sensation usually change over time and resolve by one year post surgery.
9. You should ask for pamphlets from your clinic on exercises.
Women may need help with communicating their feelings, both negative and positive with their loved ones. Sexual intercourse can be resumed when ever both partners are comfortable. Women may prefer to lay a pillow over the operated side or wear a bra or camisole to prevent contact with operation site during intercourse.
Fertility after Breast Cancer
Women who have had breast cancer should wait two years after completing treatment to attempt pregnancy. Women receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy should use birth control during treatment.