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Tips for Recovering From Breast Cancer Surgery

What Exercises Should I Do After Breast Cancer Surgery?

Exercising is important after breast cancer surgery. To regain mobility, perform these stretching exercises several times every day, starting the day after surgery.

  • Arm lifts. While standing or sitting on the edge of a chair, lift both arms over your head, with your elbows "touching" your ears. Hold for a count of five and repeat.
  • Arm swings. While standing, swing both arms forward and back from your shoulders (like a pendulum). Try to keep your elbows straight. Increase the distance of the swing each time. Repeat 10 times.
  • Wall climbing. Stand facing a wall, with your feet close to the wall. Put your arms out in front of you with your hands on the wall. Climb the fingertips of both hands up the wall, until your arms are stretched over your head. Climb your fingers back down the wall. Repeat 10 times, trying to reach higher each time.

When Can I Drive After Breast Cancer Surgery?

Most women can resume driving 10 to 14 days after breast cancer surgery. Ask your doctor about specific recommendations for your situation.

What Follow-Up Exams Will I Have?

Regular follow-up exams are very important after breast cancer treatment. The doctor will continue to closely monitor progress to help insure that the cancer has not returned. Regular checkups usually include exams of the chest, underarm, and neck. From time to time, there  a complete physical exam, and an annual mammogram. No other x-rays, scans or blood are routinely necessary. These studies should be reserved if there are symptoms or signs of cancer recurrence.

Should I Do Breast Self-Exams?

A woman who has had cancer in one breast has a higher-than-average risk of developing cancer in her other breast. You should continue to practice monthly breast self-exams, checking both the treated area and your other breast. Report any changes to your doctor right away.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

It is best not have blood drawn, or an injection given, in the arm on the side of your body where you had breast cancer surgery. If it is necessary that blood be drawn or drugs given in this arm, be sure to tell the health care provider that you have had breast surgery.

When Do I Call the Doctor After Breast Cancer Surgery?

When you go home from the hospital after breast cancer surgery, call your doctor if you have:

  • Swelling in your arm or hand, near the incision, or under your arm (a small amount of swelling is normal for about one month after surgery. Sometimes, elevating your arm on pillows will reduce some of the swelling.)
  • A fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Increased drainage from the incision
  • Increased pain not controlled by your pain medication
  • Other physical problems such as pain, loss of appetite or weight, changes in menstrual periods, or blurred vision; also report dizziness, coughing or hoarseness, headaches, or digestive problems that seem unusual or that don't go away in 2-3 days.




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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Arnold Wax, MD on May 18, 2013

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