Things You SHOULD do After a Mastectomy
From my own experience with breast cancer, and having a mastectomy, there are a few quick tips I would like to share with others starting their journey. If they ideas below spark some additional questions, please feel free to email me! I would be happy to help.
- REVIEW ALL PAPERWORK FROM YOUR SURGEON!!! I cannot stress this enough. You will be send home with details and instructions of what to do and not to do regarding all physical activity, how to care for the surgery site and drains, and medication information and warnings. Although they will go over all of this before you leave the hospital, there is a chance you will not remember, or they will forget to tell you something. So hang on to that paperwork and review it often to make sure you are following all the surgeons instructions.
- Check the paperwork, or call your surgeon before you use ice or a cold pack on the surgery area. My surgeon was very clear to never use ice after this type of surgery. The skin around the area is very weak, and they want to encourage blood flow. You will be numb in that area from the nerves being cut. Ice can not only damage the skin, but hurt you as well, and you won’t be able to feel it until it is too late. Same rule applies to a heat pack.
- Avoid any vigorous or strenuous movements of your arms. This includes any scrubbing motions, vacuuming, and things like that. Doing dishes may have to wait a week or two. The perfect excuse to be pampered a bit by a friend or family member.
- Keep the surgery area very clean. You will want to wear clean clothes every day. Some even change their top twice a day to make sure everything that touches your skin is very clean. The surgeon will give you instructions on whether or not you can shower, and how to keep the drain tube incision area clean as well. Each surgeon is a little bit different so again, make sure you have all the paperwork and instructions from them before you leave the hospital.
- Prepare ahead of time for limited movement. I have talked to hundreds of women about their personal recovery after a mastectomy. I found they all experience varying degrees of limited movement. It really depends on your overall health and the type of mastectomy you will have. A single mastectomy will have a lot less restrictions than a double. Also, whether you decide to have immediate reconstruction started at the same time as your mastectomy will also greatly effect the range of movement you will have. For example, let's use my own mastectomy as a basic guide. I had a double (bilateral) mastectomy, with no reconstruction (simple mastectomy). However, I also have fibromyalgia. So my recovery may have taken a bit longer than someone without any other underlying health issues. I could not start working on mobility exercises until I had my drains out. So while I had the JP drains, I could not lift my arms past my waist, and could not reach out more than elbow length. Once I was able to start the mobility exercises, it took me about 2 months to get my arms completely over my head. Even after that, it was still quite a while before I could easily raise my arm. Make sure you check with your surgeon before starting any exercises.