Questions and Answers For Breast Patients

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions and answers about mastectomy or lumpectomy and recovery.

Please feel free to email questions to: [email protected]

Q. When will I be able to pick up or hug my children?

A. Well, you can hug your children right away, just make sure that they know not to squeeze too hard.  Hugs reduce recovery time.

Many young mothers worry about the day-to-day care of their little children after surgery– lifting a child out of a crib or bath, putting them into a car seat.  Any activity that engages the pectorals (chest) muscles should be minimized  for at least 6 weeks after surgery, maybe longer, depending on reconstruction.  Children learn to rely on a  well placed stool, take assistance from an older sibling or take their bath at a time of day when someone else might assist .

Because I had a few months to plan the timing of my surgery (not a luxury for all patients), I taught my 2 year old daughter to sleep in a “big girl bed” that she could climb in and out of on her own.

Q. How do I take care of my drains?

A. Many patients are confused by drain care.  Many patients complain that the drains are pinched as they exit the skin.  The drains are very important in removing fluid that collects at the mastectomy or lumpectomy site.  The drains stay in place on average 7-10 days.  Please refer to the video on this website and use the drain log to record your drain output.

Q. How much pain and discomfort is normal?

A. This is a hard question to answer because everyone has their own pain tolerance.  Tightness, soreness, fatigue are all normal after mastectomy.  The good news is that  most patients find that the pain diminshes gradually over the first week. Staying ahead of the pain is a good strategy.  Keep a pad in a convenient spot and write down the time you took your last pain pill.  If you let it go too long between doses, you may find that you get irritible and exhausted from the resurgence of pain.  Finding a comfortable position to sleep can be very challenging.  Take medication before you go to bed!
Call your doctor, if you notice any new onset of redness, swelling, or pain that is accompained by fever and chills.  This may be a sign of infection.

Q. When will I begin to see my final size?

A. This depends on the type of reconstruction that you undergo. Swelling needs to go down and the breasts tend to settle in many situations.  If you have delayed/expander reconstruction, you may not see your final size until after your exchange.  If you have autologous tissue (TRAM, DIEP, GAP) there can be variations in size for up to 9 months, depending on swelling and weight fluctuations.  Direct to implant reconstruction tends to settle in about 3 months.  Don’t go crazy buying bathing suits or bras for a while!

Q. When can I begin to exercise?

A. When you feel strong enough.  Each patient recovers at her own pace.  Many types of exercise– swimming, kick boxing, horsebackriding might require a longer hiatus than other forms of exercise– walking, running, etc.
I would advise discussing this with your physicians, but also remember that it feels wonderful to get fresh air and back to your routine.  If this means taking a walk, make sure that you have someone accompany you at first.  Bring a bottle of water with you and wear a supportive bra.

Q. Here is a question I received via email:
Hi Dr. Thompson,
I am e-mailing with a concern. The area under my arm near my left breast is very sore and tender. The exact location is where the underwire of my bras hits up on the side. It has become so bad that I can no longer wear underwire bras or sleep on that side without pain. The only reason I am concerned is that the right side is so much better and virtually pain free. Is it normal for the right and left side to be in such different places in recovery? I am hoping I have not somehow messed up [Dr. X’s] handiwork or torn the area where the alloderm is sutured.
Thank you again for all your help with my post surgery recovery questions.

A. Your concern is valid. Many post-op bras have elastic or wire right along a suture line and this causes pinching and pain. Usually the bra is not fitting properly in that case. The Masthead Models 104 (lycra with cotton lining) and 105 (cotton) are both soft cup and designed for comfort in the post op period. Please try one of these. If the redness persists and you run a fever, please let you doctor know immediately.

Please feel free to email questions to: [email protected]

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2 Responses to Questions and Answers For Breast Patients

  1. Yvonne Bernard says:

    I would like to order the Editor’s Pick ‘Special Delivery BFFL Bag, but would like to know how to order the size of the flip flops which is included in the bag. Please reply as I’d like to place the order today. Thanks

    • Elizabeth Thompson says:

      We pack size 9 in the bag, fits almost everyone– a little big or a little small.
      We look forward to your order.

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