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Recovery From Breast Reconstruction Surgery? continued...

Intravenous fluids will probably continue for a day or two, but you will gradually progress to a regular diet. You may have a urinary catheter in overnight or until you can walk to the bathroom. You will also have drains at the incision sites. If you go home with these drains in place, you will be given instructions on how to care for them.

The length of your hospital stay depends on the type of operation and how your recovery progresses. If you've gotten implants, the average length of hospitalization is one to two days. Flap procedures require a stay of five to six days.

Follow-Up Care for Breast Reconstruction

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

After you go home, you can expect some soreness, swelling, and bruising for two to three 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.

The mastectomy and breast reconstruction will leave areas of numbness where the surgery was performed. Instead of feeling pain where the tissue was taken, a patient 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 following the reconstruction.

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 obtained (usually within six to 10 office visits).

After breast reconstruction, you should continue to examine your breasts every month. You should continue to have regular screening exams, such as an annual mammogram.

Breast reconstruction has no bearing on cancer recurrence or surveillance, and generally does not interfere with chemotherapy or radiation treatment. A recurrence can still be treated by any of the standard treatment methods, which include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. In addition, reconstruction rarely, if at all, hides or obscures a local recurrence.

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