Here are some mastectomy recovery tips to help speed up your recovery and ease your worries. You'll take it slow at work, avoid strenuous activities, and more.
10 Mastectomy Recovery Tips to Help Ease Your Discomfort
In 2019, nearly 30,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in Canada.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis is scary and sorting through treatment plans is no picnic. For most women with breast cancer, they choose to have a mastectomy, which means the removal of part of the whole breast due to cancer.
A mastectomy can be painful and carries an emotional toll. However, it's vital to your recovery that you care for yourself after surgery.
If you're thinking about having a mastectomy, or you've already had one, read these mastectomy recovery tips so you can start to feel like yourself again.
10 Mastectomy Recovery Tips
While you might think you don't need the downtime after a mastectomy, think again. This is an invasive surgery that will require a long recovery time depending on the severity of the case.
Here are some tips to make your recovery more manageable.
1. Understand The Side Effects
After surgery, you'll likely have some pain, discomfort, and more.
Here are some side effects to watch out for:
- Swelling or fluid retention
- Tingling at the site
Be sure to ask your doctor about the best ways to handle these side effects, such as what pain medications you can take to reduce pain or actions you can take if you think your side effects are not normal.
2. Clean And Organize Your Home
Coming home might be challenging for you. You will not want to feel as if there's too much to do or clean; you want to focus on resting.
If possible, before your surgery, enlist some of your close friends and family to help you clean your entire home. Organize your clothing so you have easy access to buttoned shirts, robes, and clothes that are easy to put on.
Prepare your bathroom as well. Some patients install a handheld shower nozzle to make showering easier, especially if bandages cannot get wet. Make sure you have medical supplies such as bandages or sanitary napkins available in case you need to change your dressings. The bathroom is where most accidents happen in the home, so please read 9 Bathroom Safety Tips That'll Reduce Bathroom Hazards or Bathroom Safety Tips for Seniors - 12 Great Tips (although written for seniors, it also applies to surgery recovery).
3. Meal Plan
There'll probably be a few days, or even weeks, where you don't feel like cooking or preparing meals. Before your surgery, create a meal plan and prepare your meals ahead of time.
Several meals are easy to follow and freeze well. Some even last months in the freezer so consider making large batches of your favorite meals to eat later if you plan on having a long recovery time.
Consider freezing foods you already have so they don't go bad during your recovery.
4. Follow At-Home Instructions
After surgery, your doctor will send you home with care instructions that might pertain to changing bandages, draining fluids, or doses of medications you can take.
You must follow these directions exactly so your recovery time is as minimal as smooth as possible. Failure to follow at-home care instructions could result in a choppy recovery, infections, or worse.
Always call your doctor's office if you have questions about your at-home care post-surgery.
5. Gently Exercise
While you won't be able to continue strenuous exercise after your surgery, your doctor might suggest doing some gentle stretching to keep yourself mobile.
When you stretch, you will have to be careful of your incision. It's important to keep it intact and safe. Rubbing or too much movement could cause damage to the incision, so stick to the stretching that your doctor deems ok.
6. Pack A Bag
Before and after your surgery, you'll want to be as comfortable as possible. The best way to do this is to stock up on mastectomy care products designed to boost your confidence and comfort.
Our team has written a thoughtful blog on Tips on Mastectomy Clothing for Comfort After Surgery.
You'll want to pack clothes that open in the front like a robe or button-down shirts. Avoid anything that involves lifting over your head, and yet it helps if it's comfortable and loose-fitting so as not to cling to any incisions.
The Amoena Company has developed a soft and lightweight Post Surgical Fiberfill Puff Breast Form that is made of soft fiberfill to help women feel more comfortable after surgery. Some women have found these forms to be ideal for after surgery.
Once you are recovered from surgery you may want to consider measuring for a mastectomy bra. The Halo team in consultation with Amoena Canada has a Six Week Post-Op Amoena Bra Fitting Guide.
7. Plan Your Ride Home
Going home from surgery is a great feeling, but the ride home may be slightly uncomfortable.
Have some pillows ready to place under the seatbelt so you don't have too much pressure on your incision. If you're in some pain, be sure to take pain medication first so you're comfortable on the ride home.
8. Patience With Yourself
Having a mastectomy is painful, both emotionally and physically. It's important to give yourself patience because you've been through something incredibly life-changing. It will take time for you to adjust and that's ok.
Give yourself patience and talk to people about it if you need to. Talking through your emotions will bring clarity and help you feel like you're not alone in the process.
Your surgeon will schedule a follow-up appointment to check on your progress, so be sure you show up. At this appointment, the surgeon will look at your incision and you might have other appointments to see if cancer has returned.
These appointments are very important to your overall recovery, so be sure to make them or reschedule if you can't make it.
10. Call Your Doctor
Recovery is critical, so call your doctor if something seems off to you or if you start experiencing more pain than normal. Here are some symptoms to watch for:
- Excessive swelling
- Trouble breathing
If anything seems out of the ordinary or you have questions, never hesitate to call your doctor.
Mastectomy Recovery Tips
Hopefully, these mastectomy recovery tips will help you through a challenging time and make your recovery smoother and manageable.
Finally, check out our mastectomy bras, breast forms, and specialty clothing here.