Tips for Recovering at Home after Having a Mastectomy to Treat Breast Cancer

The last thing anyone wants is to be diagnosed with breast cancer. After a breast cancer diagnosis, you may be treated with chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of the two. However, when breast cancer is at a more advanced stage, an oncologist may highly recommend a mastectomy. A mastectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the complete removal of all breast tissue. If you are scheduled to have a mastectomy to treat breast cancer, it is important to know that there is a recovery period. Use the following tips to help you recover from a mastectomy at home.

Be Diligent About Staying on Top of Pain and Discomfort

A mastectomy is a fairly major surgical procedure. After the anesthesia from the surgery completely wears off, it is not uncommon to experience discomfort and pain in your chest around the surgical incisions. Upon being discharged from the hospital following your surgery, you will receive a prescription for pain medication from your surgery. Make arrangements to have a friend or family member fill the prescription and then take the pain medication exactly as directed. Taking pain medication as prescribed will keep you comfortable and help prevent you from having to deal with moderate to severe pain.

Plan on Sponge Baths

After your mastectomy is completed, your chest and the surgical incisions will be bandaged. In many cases, a surgeon will tell a patient not to remove the bandages — the doctor will remove it during a follow-up appointment. While your bandage and dressing are in place, it is important to keep them dry. Thus, you will need to avoid taking regular showers. Instead, plan on taking sponge baths until you attend your follow up appointment with your doctor and have the bandage and dressing removed.

Make Exercising Your Arms a Priority

Before you leave the hospital, your nurse or doctor will show you some arm exercises to do. It is important to exercise your arm on the side of your body where you had the mastectomy to ensure that your arm and shoulder do not get stiff. If you are having a double mastectomy, you will want to perform the exercises on both arms on a daily basis. At first, doing your arm exercises may be somewhat uncomfortable, but as you continue to heal and recover they should get easier. Failure to do the arm exercises can result in other issues, so it is best to push through any minor discomfort that you may experience. 

To learn more about the recovery process, discuss your breast cancer treatment plan with your doctor.