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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Breast Reconstruction Without Implants

Follow-up Care

You can expect some soreness, swelling, and bruising for 2 to 3 weeks. You may need to put medications on the suture area or change bandages at home. Your surgeon will advise you about showering, bathing, and wound care.

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

Both mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery will leave areas of numbness. Instead of feeling pain at the reconstruction site, it may feel numb. The same is true of the area where the tissue was taken. In time, some feeling may return in both sites.

Most scars fade over time, and the shape of your reconstructed breast will slowly improve over the months following your surgery.

What Side Effects Can I Expect?

  • Infection at the surgery site. As with any surgery, infection is a risk. Typically, an antibiotic will get rid of the infection.
  • Pain and discomfort. Your doctor will advise you on a pain relief medication. Some women have more pain than others.
  • Itching. As the wound heals, you will experience itching. But no matter how strong the urge, avoid scratching it. Your doctor can recommend an ointment or cream to calm the itching.
  • Numbness or tingling sensations. You may feel these sensations because the nerves have been affected. It can last up to 12 months after surgery.
  • Fluid collection under the wound. Fluid may collect under the wound. This may happen even after your drainage tubes are removed several days after the operation. If there’s not a lot of fluid, it may go away by itself. But if there’s a lot, your surgeon may have to drain the site using a needle and syringe.

Call your doctor immediately if you have any of the following:

  • A fever above 100 F
  • Fluid leaking from incision sites
  • Any change in color in the breast or scar area

Can the Cancer Come Back?

Breast reconstruction does not affect the chance of the cancer returning. After breast reconstruction, you’ll continue to need regular screening tests.

If it returns, it can be treated by any of the standard treatments, which include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and biologic therapy.

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