Lumpectomy and node removal surgery advice

Hi all

I hope everyone is doing well. 
I am having my surgery to remove the lump and a couple of lymph nodes this week having never had a general anaesthetic before I am feeling very nervous.

Has anyone got any practical advice for recovery post surgery and how to stay comfortable when trying to sleep etc.


Hi janeycat

The good thing about a general anaesthetic is you have no idea what went on. One minute you’re fretting and wondering when they’ll come for you, then you’re on a trolley (hope for a good porter or it’s a bumpy ride), then you see your anaesthetist and start counting. You’re back in your bed, with a dressing and maybe a drain if you are having all your nodes removed. It’s worth asking if you’ll have a drain when your surgeon comes to visit you beforehand (maybe your anaesthetist too). Don’t be surprised if s/he gets out a biro and draws on you - it’s so high-tech at that stage but they must make sure they operate on the correct breast!

If you are worried about being sick, which isn’t as common as we fear, just tell them. But be careful - make sure you don’t get given the anti-emetic that leaves you completely dehydrated. That isn;t nice to wake up to.

You can buy specially designed mastectomy pillows. These help prevent you from rolling onto your wound as you sleep. I just used an ordinary pillow. If you do have a drain, ask the hospital if they lend out bags to carry the drain round with you. I had no idea about this till I was faced with it and it took days to work out that a scarf could make a good sling for it. 

You’ll need to be wearing the simplest clothes you have - pull-up joggers, flat shoes you can slip into, because bending is hard at first and faffing around with skinny jeans and zips while you’re worrying about your drain or dressing can be avoided. You’ll need loose, front-opening tops (I borrowed a few of my husband’s shirts as most of my clothes were quite tight). I didn’t need any pain relief but it might be wise to stock up on fast-acting ibuprofen and paracetamol (it’s safe to use them both, so long as it’s two hours apart).

You’ll need plenty of rest and want to sleep at odd times for a few days. That’s normal. Let someone else do the cooking and the housework can wait! Listen to your body. You’ll be given breast exercises to do. Do them from as soon as you’re instructed, lightly till your wound has started healing, then seriously as there may be avoidable pitfalls like cording. It depends how many nodes are removed. You may have to do them for ever. Three years down the line and I still need them as I had full axillary clearance.

I’m sure others will respond and fill in the bits I’ve forgotten. It’s normal to feel nervous about a GA but, to be honest, I find going to the dentist worse! Wishing you all the best,

Jan x