Healing after a simple mastectomy


Last week I had my dressings removed and was given the brilliant news that although there were 2 small areas of invasive cancer in the DCIS it had not spread to my lymph nodes. I am about to start 5 years of hormone treatment.
I have a very neat scar and minimal swelling. My surgeon recommended wearing my NHS softie to help reduce the swelling further. I actually prefer my knitted knockers as there are no rough edges.

My question is how long does it take for the numb tight feeling along the scar to change?

I appreciate there are parts of my body having to knit together that have not had a relationship before. I am religiously doing my physio exercises but sometimes don’t do the last couple as the upper part of my chest is tight and tender. My mobility is definitely improving though.

Many thanks

Annie :two_hearts:

Hi Annie

I suspect you know the answer is the proverbial length of string! Some people heal quickly, some take months, some take years. There’s always the risk of nerve damage in any surgery which can cause numbness or pain and can take a long time to heal. I had my mastectomy in October 2018. I did have a full axillary clearance too to be fair. My remaining breast muscle and the ribs beneath are always tender because of radiotherapy but there are numb areas because of severed nerves. I still do some of the breast exercises just to keep the muscle flexible.

One thing you may find helpful is to use something like E45 cream or Aqueous or any rich cream and apply it in circular movements to your scar daily. The massage eases the muscle, the pain is massaged away and you should be able to do all the exercises then. What you don’t want is for the scar to pucker up or to get a frozen shoulder and be constantly painful so keep it stretched. The oncology physiotherapist recommended an additional exercise that is so simple. If you have access to a walking stick, that’s perfect, but a long umbrella may work or just a stick about arm’s length. You stretch out your arm horizontally with the umbrella handle resting in your outstretched hand and the pointy end in your ‘good’ hand. You then push the umbrella outwards as far as your arm or scar will take, and then do 5 rapid thrusts, rest, another 5, rest and so on. It’s the most helpful exercise I’ve been given for stretching the scarred tissue and muscle.

Hope that helps. Good luck with the hormone therapy (and if you get adverse side effects, try changing brand, It really makes a difference!). Xx

Hi Annie, 

My mastectomy was December 2020 and I have to say that there’s still numbness and a tightness across the scar. It’s not a problem but in case you were hoping you’d feel the skin around the area, you may not. I wish you well and feel free to connect if you need a buddy.