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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Breast Reconstruction

Recovery From Breast Reconstruction Surgery continued...

Soon after surgery you’ll be encouraged to move your arms, but not for any forceful activity like pulling yourself up, getting out of bed, or lifting heavy objects. Nurses will help you in and out of bed. The day after surgery, you may be able to sit in a chair beside the bed. On the second day, most patients are walking without help.

You’ll likely get IV fluids for a day or two. You may have a urinary catheter in overnight or until you can walk to the bathroom. You’ll also have drains at the incision sites. If you go home with these drains in place, you’ll get instructions on how to care for them.

The length of your hospital stay depends on the type of operation and how your recovery goes. If you got implants, the average hospital stay is 1 to 2 days. Flap procedures may require a stay of 5 to 6 days.

Follow-Up Care for Breast Reconstruction

After you go home, you can expect some soreness, swelling, and bruising for 2 to 3 weeks. You may be asked to apply medications to the suture area or change bandages at home. Your plastic surgeon will advise you about showering, bathing, and wound care.

Most women return to normal activities within 6 to 8 weeks after surgery. It may be several weeks before you can do strenuous exercise.

The mastectomy and breast reconstruction will leave areas of numbness where the surgery was performed. Instead of feeling pain where the tissue was taken, you may feel numbness and tightness. In time, some feeling may return in your breasts. Most scars will fade over time.

The shape of your reconstructed breast will gradually improve over the months.

You'll be asked to return for regular checkups at first. If you have a temporary expander implanted, it will be expanded with saline once a week, on average, until the desired size is reached (usually within six to 10 office visits).

Keep doing self-exams of your breasts every month, and have an annual mammogram.

Breast reconstruction doesn’t change the chance of cancer coming back, and it generally doesn’t interfere with treatment. If the disease does come back, your medical team can still treat you with surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on August 11, 2015
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