Skip to content

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Tips for Recovering From Breast Cancer Surgery

Please note: These are general guidelines and may not apply to every patient. Always follow your doctor's specific instructions for care after surgery.

How Do I Care for My Drainage Device?

You may be discharged from the hospital after breast cancer surgery with an external drainage device in place. The drain will continuously remove fluid from the surgery site into a collection device. You will be responsible for emptying it. Your health care provider will show you how to care for your drain before you leave the hospital.

The amount of fluid drained over a 24-hour period will gradually decrease. The color of the fluid may also change from a cherry red to a yellow-red, and then to a straw-colored fluid. Usually the drainage system is removed within a week after surgery.

When Can I Get My Incision Wet?

After breast cancer surgery, the incision should be kept clean and dry for 1 week. Because of this, sponge baths are preferable to showers. Bathing in a bathtub is OK if the incision area is kept dry. Small pieces of tape (called Steri-Strips) will remain over the incision. Steri-Strips usually fall off by themselves.

Do not go swimming until you have discussed this with your doctor at your follow-up appointment. Confirm all this with your surgeon to make sure he or she does not have any other concerns.

When and How Do I Change My Bandages?

A special bra (Surgi-Bra) will be worn, which holds bandages in place after the surgery. A health care provider will tell you when this bra may be removed. Dressings should be changed once a day. A health care provider will show you the proper technique.

If possible, it's a good idea to have someone help you change the bandages.

What Should I Take for the Pain?

You will be given a prescription for pain medication after breast cancer surgery. Ask your doctor about taking over-the-counter pain relievers in addition to, or instead of, your prescription pain medicine. Do not take aspirin or products containing aspirin for the first 3 days after the procedure, as they may raise the risk of bleeding.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow