Recovering from your procedure?
After the operation, you will go back to the ward when you have recovered from the anaesthetic, until you are well enough to go home, about 2 days after wide local excision and 2 – 4 days after mastectomy. If you have any side effects from the anaesthetic, such as headache, nausea, vomiting, tell the nurse looking after you, who will be able to give you some medication to help.
You can expect to have pain in the operation site. There are a number of ways in managing your pain.
You may have:
- a drip with painkillers into the vein
- a drip with painkillers that you can give yourself when you feel pain
It is important that you tell the nursing staff if you are having pain. Your pain should wear off within 7 – 10 days. If it does not, you must tell your doctor.
You will have a drip in your arm when you come back from surgery. This will be removed when you are able to take food and fluids by mouth and you are no longer feeling sick. To begin with, you can have small sips of water then slowly take more until you are eating normally.
You may have clips, stitches and/or stitches that are dissolvable or a combination of both.
Your wound may have a dressing and you will also have a wound drain, which is removed after 3 – 4 days or as soon as the drainage has stopped. Continue to keep your wound clean and protected until healed and no seepage is present.
Your lungs and blood supply
It is very important after surgery that you start moving as soon as possible. This is to prevent blood clots forming in your legs and possibly traveling to your lungs. This can be fatal. To help prevent against clots forming in your legs, you may have support stockings (TEDS) on before you go to surgery and these will stay on until you are walking on your own. You may also be put on drugs to thin your blood.
Also, you need to do your deep breathing exercises, ten deep breaths every hour, to get the secretions in your lungs moving and help prevent a chest infection. Avoid smoking after surgery as this increases your risk of chest infection which causes coughing – a painful experience after surgery.
You will feel tired for some time after surgery. (You need to take things easy and gradually return to normal duties, as you feel able to.) You should not drive during the first 1-2 weeks and until you have a reasonable range of movement in your shoulder. You will be taught how to do arm exercises. It is important that you follow these to help you return to a normal range of shoulder movements.
If you have had surgery and/ or radiotherapy to the armpit
The arm on the same side of the surgery and/ or radiotherapy needs care to help in the prevention of lymphodoema (swelling in the armpit). You should avoid the following with that arm:
- Blood taking or blood pressure measurement
- Carrying anything heavy
- Tight clothing or jewelry
- Cuts, burns and insect bites
- Skin cream to keep the arm moist
- Cooling devices during the hot summer
- Gloves to wash up
- Gloves and long sleeved shirt when gardening.
Sexuality and self-esteem
Many women may have problems with their sexuality and selfesteem after breast cancer surgery. Your doctor may refer you for psychological counselling before and after your surgery so that you and your partner can work through these problems.