Blog | What you might not expect after a Mastectomy

Getting a mastectomy is a scary thing. It is even more stressful when you are not quite sure what to expect. Planning ahead, and knowing what you are getting into can help alleviate a lot of stress and fear. Here is a quick top 5 list of things you might not expect after a mastectomy.

1. Pain
I know you are thinking, well yeah, I expect pain. But it is actually something you should plan for. The pain may be a bit more than you expect, and may be in different areas than you expect. For instance, did you know a lot of pain is actually in the underarm area? There are ways to combat the pain, and things you can do to help stay relaxed and therefore in less pain. Check out my other blogs for that info.

2. Weakness
Your arms will be very weak after surgery. This will effect what you can eat, opening medication bottles, doing laundry and getting to your doctor visits. This will also effect the way you sleep. You may not be able to prop yourself up as easily. Plan on lots of pillows to help you stay propped up, or use a wedge pillow.

3. Drains
Usually after a surgery like a mastectomy you will have drain tubes at the surgery area. These have to be monitored and cared for. They also have to be secured to your clothing, as you cannot let them just hang free. Again, check out my other blogs for a way to be super comfortable with these very uncomfortable appendages.

4. Down Time
A mastectomy is a major surgery. Therefore, it will take a while to heal completely. You will need to check with your surgeon to find out how much time off work you will need to take. There will also be other physical restrictions, like no vacuuming (yay!) and physical therapy to get your range of motion back in your arms.

5. Numbness
Like I said before, this is a major surgery. It is an amputation, and therefore you will have some of the side effects from that type of a surgery. One that surprises women is numbness, some of which are permanent. Underarm numbness is common and of course numbness in the chest area. I was not told I would have that type of numbness and it was a surprise to me. It was very hard to shave my underarms because I couldn't feel them. So just one more thing to prepare for.

Breast cancer is scary and a mastectomy is scary too. But prepare ahead of time and never be afraid to ask questions of your doctors. It also might be a good idea to seek out counseling services, or support groups. I personally found a few Facebook groups to be of immense help, especially with personal or intimate questions I have had. And of course feel free to email me with any questions too! I'm always ready to help in any way I can!


Leslie Notarianni
Pink Pepper Co
Owner/Breast Cancer Survivor

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  • Kimberly Phillips on

    What is a good Facebook support group? Or do you suggest finding a local one to see people in person?

  • Brenda on

    Newly diagnosed with breast cancer. Surgery planned for mid January. I feel so anxious about getting the pathology results – my future depends on it! Find it hard to burden family / close friends with my fears & concerns. Maybe communication with a stranger would be easier for me… Ordered your pillow- I’m optimistic it will ease my recovery.

  • Rose Ann Glaviano on

    Did you have implant surgery?

  • Linda W on

    Leslie, your writing style is approachable and kind. Thank you for offering specific hints from your experience. Valuable for our loved one and for those of us who want to help.

  • Tammy Muto on

    I appreciate the information you share. My double mastectomy is July 31… I’ll be so glad to get it over and on the road to recovery but I am anxious. My husband is very supportive but there are a few things I just say “it’s no big deal” to when that might not be completely true.
    This week was exceptionally hard as my ex husband died very unexpectedly. Trying to be strong and supportive for my boys but there is just a lot of personal emotions too.
    Do you have any recommendations for post surgery bras? I spoke with a friend today that said not to get zip front ones… so much to think about!
    I found your Etsy site for the pillows doing a google search for mastectomy pillows.
    Thank you for caring and sharing.
    Be well-

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