After undergoing your mastectomy surgery, you are admitted to a hospital room where you’re supposed to recover. This hospital stay may last for up to 3 days. The day that follows your surgery, you are introduced to exercise routines by your surgeon. These exercises are meant to reduce stiffness in shoulders, arms and breast side that had mastectomy done. The most important part of mastectomy recovery is home care. Lots of precautions need to be taken when performing activities and caring for surgical wounds.
1. Take Medications for Pain
After the mastectomy procedure, you will be put under medication. You will need to pass by a pharmacy to get the prescription drugs as you are required to start taking them immediately.
2. Care for the Dressing Over the Incision
You need to ask your nurse or surgeon to show you how you can care for the bandage covering the surgical wound. Generally, you are asked not to remove the bandage. You should wait until the day you’re scheduled to attend your clinic for the nurse or doctor to remove the bandage.
3. Care for a Surgical Drain
If you have a drain on your armpit or breast, you may have it removed before leaving the hospital. However, there are some cases where the drain remains intact until you go for your first post surgery checkup. This check up is done a week or two after the surgery. If you happen to go home with the drain intact, you are expected to empty it a few times a day through the detachable drain bulb. You need to ensure you are given clear instructions on how to care of the drain.
4. Staples and Stitches
In most mastectomy surgeries, dissolvable stitches are used. This ensures you do not have to go back to hospital to have them removed. However, the ends of the stitches may at times stick out a bit. These ends can be removed by your surgeon. However, there are also surgical stitches that can be removed during your first follow up clinic.
5. Watch out for Infections
Before you leave the hospital, you surgeon should teach you how to identify when the wound is getting an infection. You should call the doctor in case you notice any signs of an infection.
6. Exercise your Arm
You will be shown an arm workout routine that helps prevent shoulder and arm stiffness. You should start working out on the day following your surgery. You should only start working out after the drains have been removed. You need to ask questions regarding the exercise routine to ensure you know what is expected of you and to prevent overworking the part operated on.
7. Be Careful with Kitchen Activities
- It is important to have someone change the arrangement in your kitchen. You need to have the utensils you use often placed in a lower shelf if they were stacked in a higher one. This will help you avoid stretching your arms beyond the shoulder height.
- Avoid buying gallons of milk and water until you heal. Handling the heavy gallons can strain the breast muscle resulting in pain.
- You need to have someone who can open jars and bottles for you. Also ask people you live with not to close the bottles and jars too tightly.
- You should not bend to wipe spilled beverages or foods. You need to use your legs on a rag to wipe the mess.
- You should avoid using force on the refrigerator’s door. Use both hands to pull the handle while meaning back.
8. Window Blinds and Drapes
You need to have someone slightly open the windows around the house. This makes it easy for you to open them wide or close the in the evening. This ensures you only use a little chest muscle for the process.
9. Cleaning and Laundry
You should not undertake any heavy cleaning especially vacuuming. You can dust around the house using a light duster. You should have all other forms of cleaning done by someone else. You should also avoid changing of bed sheets and any other household chore that is considered strenuous. You can only go back to your chores a few months after the surgery.
10. Bra wearing
There are no restrictions on wearing a bra after mastectomy. You may be asked to wear a bra immediately after the surgery. Alternatively you may be asked not to wear a bra until later on. Either way, wearing a bra has no effects on the area that underwent the surgery.
In case you start wearing a bra immediately after the surgery, you need to go for bras that do not have an underwire. If your mastectomy involves implants, you’ll be supplied with a Velcro bra which you are supposed to wear for a few weeks after the surgery.
Generally, you are allowed to start driving again after you are able to comfortably use the hand brake and gear lever. This can take a few weeks or months depending on how well and quick your wound heals. However, you can check with your insurance company for guidelines on driving after a surgery. This will prevent complications in case you get an accident on the road.
For more on mastectomy, breast cancer recovery, you can watch this video: