Mastectomy preparation advice

Not posted in a while, but my BF has just been told she will need a mx in a couple of weeks. Has completed 6 months of chemo which has halved the size of her tumour, and onc believe full mx is better option than WLE. She’s gutted. She may have to have radiotherapy afterwards and reconstruction will take place towards the end of the year/early next year.

Would appreciate any advice on what items she should buy ahead of her surgery, versus what is best to leave until post surgery. She already had a couple of comfortable, non-underwired bras that she bought following her SNB. Should she buy some mastectomy bras in advance or wait until she knows positioning of scars? What about style of nightdresses for hospital? (sleeveless vs short-sleeved?) I’ve already read a post somewhere about usefulness of having dressing gown with big pockets, so that the drain bag can be put into a pocket during loo visits.

Any other practical advice would be very appreciated.


Hi, I had a Mx back in march and haven’t needed mastectomy bras. I’ve been fine with normal non wired bras - and I’m not samll busted at 38DD!. The only thing I’d say is to make sure that the bra is fairly deep between the breasts (ie the join in the middle is towards the top of the cup) rather than a plunge or cross your heart type as that will help to keep a prosthesis in place more firmly.

For nightwear I’d suggest pj’s rather than nightdress and make sure the top buttons down the front for easy access and to make it easier to put on when it’s impossible to raise your arms over your head. Sleeve length doesn’t really matter, go with whatever is comfortable.

Hope that helps



I had a right mx and lymph node clearance. I found pyjamas better for hosp as at least your bottom half was covered when nurses or dr were checking your wound. I wore jogging trouseres and a t shirt through the day as i was well enough to walk about and go to cafe with my visitors the hosp gave me a little bag to put the drains in which worked quite well.

Good luck for your forthcoming op

Carolyn x

As the other ladies have said, pyjamas are a must, l had a mx in May and didn’t buy any post op bras until after, there is really no need, she will be wearing a softie for about 4 weeks so she has plenty of time to buy a bra, l have only purchased 2 post op bras, l find l can wear a normal bra.
I found a small shoulder bag very useful for the drains!
Good Luck to your friend
Sandra x

Hi, I had my mx in April. Definitely have button up tops as her arm movement may be restricted to start with. Mind you the physio will probably visit within a couple of days with a list of exercises to get the movement back. I had a couple a biggish scarves that I could wear draped around my shoulders to disguise the flat side. I couldn’t wear a bra initially and only got my “softie” when it was time to come home.

I also had a small drawstring bag that I could put all my essentials in – mobile, walkman, tissues, ear plugs, lip salve, book, hand cream etc. I always kept this within reach so once I had it on the bed with me I could easily get everything I needed without having bits all over the place.

Hope it all goes well.


Thanks for that. It’s actually pretty obvious about PJs now that I think about it, but it hadn’t even occurred to me.

Another question - she’s bought a few tankinis for a holiday she’s got booked for September, thinking she’d be having a lumpectomy. Now she wants to return them and get some mastectomy swimweart, but I think she might want to wait and decide until after her op, as it could be that they ones she already has will still be suitable with just a softie inside. I guess it depends on the cut of the tankini top, that the cups should give good coverage, right?

I’m just trying to find ways of helping her retain some kind of ‘normality’ and that not everything necessarily has to change because of the surgery. Not sure if this is the right approach though?

Hi there,

I had my mastectomy and node clearance last September. You would be right about the tankinis. As long as the top can hold a prosthesis securely there’s no reason to change them. She could ask her BCN if the hospital offers a pocketing service and get pockets sewn in if it makes her feel more secure.

In terms of your approach to keeping things normal, if you know your friend well just trust your instincts. Everyone really is different and it depends on what kind of person she is. During treatment it is very difficult not to let it take over your life because it occupies so much of your time and energy. I found I always needed to have something good planned for between treatments that I could look forward to so a holiday is great. You said your friend may need radiotherapy after her op and she should check with her medical team that her holiday isn’t going to clash with that. It would be better if the holiday was over before it starts as afterwards she won’t be able to expose her skin to sunlight for some time.

best wishes for a good outcome for her. Jan xx

Hi Jan - thanks for the suggestion about pocketing service. It’s not something I’ve heard of before. As for timing of radiotherapy… I think you’ve highlighted something there too. My understanding was that if the onc thinks rads is the best option, that would indeed clash with timing of planned holiday. I guess my friend and the onc will need to decide whether the rads can be delayed a couple of extra weeks - benefits of having a break after chemo/surgery, vs getting on with zapping any residue blighters. As she’s already had to cancel one holiday, I think she could really do with this one… but not if she goes away worried that she’s not giving herself the best treatment for longterm. Perhaps she just needs to be prepared that she may have to make the choice about holiday or not holiday… or even have that choice made for her.

I hope no-one reading has taken offence to my comment about trying to keep things normal. I know there is nothing ‘normal’ about BC and that it does filter into virtually everything around you. I appreciate that there is no way of going back to before-BC life, and the future will always be tinged with post-BC (whether because of continued drugs, checkups, or just thoughts of it maybe one day returning).


Hi Everyone,

I’m due to have my mx on monday (26th July) so am really appreciating the good asdvice you’ve given to ‘worried friend’; ther’s just so much to take in!

hi everyone particularly nidavellir

Thanks for all the advice, it is useful. I will be thinking of you on Monday as I am having my MX and immediate reconstruction from back on Wednesday so just a few days behind you.

I had already read previoulsy to get Pjs rather than nightie which seems like a really good idea. I was in hospital last week for SBN in day surgery and I realised how hot and stuffy the ward can be so got some short sleeved PJs.

Not thought of how to carry drains about but will see what happens, good idea about drawstring bag too to keep all bits and pieces in.

I have thought might need to take some writing paper for notes to give to hubby as reminders for things to bring on visits so I can write down when I think of them.

Hope all goes well for you on Monday nidavelli, best of luck to all

From Carol

Will your friend be having lymph nodes removed too ? I had mx and full clearance, with immediate expander implant (not that there was much expansion to start with !) and needed a drain for each wound. I was in hospital for 3 nights. One of those soft cotton drawstring bags which sometimes come with shoes or handbags would be useful for transporting the drains. Mine were sizeable bottles and would have been too big even for a deep pocketed dressing gown !

I should add that although I bought front buttoning pJ’s, I didn’t have significant movement problems. In fact barely any movement problems at all.

What about earplugs to block out some of the noise if your friend is trying to snooze ? I used the wax ones from Boots. Cheap and widely available.

Update on my friend. She has her MX this week. She took in some button-through nightdresses as well as PJs and has only just worn nightdresses. (Found them easier to cope with going to the loo.) Tip for anyone due to go into hospital if you’ve bought new nightwear: don’t snip out labels or hanger cords. It’ll give you the option of returning unworn items and getting a refund or exchanging for something else. The hospital provided a pretty, floral shoulder bag for her drains. Her surgery was, I guess, minimal in that the surgeon removed her lymph nodes internally via the single MX incision. She had two drains. One was removed day after surgery and second was removed on day 3.

It’s good to get this phase of recovery out of the way but I don’t underestimate the psychological adjustment to the physical changes. If anyone has any tips on this, they’d be appreciated. Her breast care nurse is keen to get her wearing a bra and prosthesis asap, which she tried but says she’s not in a hurry to repeat. (I know it’s very early days and she has a lot of physical healing to do.) This is obviouly going to be a huge psycholgical step in coming to terms with her changed body and wonder if she should be left and allowed to do it in her own time, or needs some firmer encouragement to face it. I guess I’m worried that if she keeps putting it off, it’ll grow into a much bigger step to take. I know it’s going to feel alien and, possibly, uncomfortable (or at least different) and so much of it is that she will have to adjust to the different feel. I’d be interested to know how other ladies dealt with it.

Fingers crossed that lab results come back clear now.


Hi there - have just joined this site, eight weeks on from mastectomy and LD reconstruction. Saw this discussion and thought I might add something I found useful - someone bought me one of those soft U shaped cushiony things that you can wrap around your neck when on a flight - they probably have a name but I can’t recall it! Its been an absolute godsend - not for my neck but for wrapping between and then under my new boob! I found it the best aid for getting comfortable, its helped me to sleep on my side quite quickly (my natural sleeping position) and has become a sort of comforter for me - a bit like a teddy bear as a kid! M&S sell them in their swimwear section. Hope that helps!


I think you are doing a fantastic job of supporting your friend - getting advice from this site and thinking about the practical stuff for her. Hope everything works out OK.