Preparing for a mastectomy- advice please

Hello, I’m 43 and have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. What a shock, I’ve experienced every emotion! I initially felt 1 lump, but the mammogram and ultrasound showed another lump. My consultant was thinking I would have a lumpectomy but my MRI breast scan showed a third lump, all in 1 breast. Several biopsys later, I now need to have a mastectomy on the one side. I’m having one with immediate implant reconstruction. I would be grateful for any advise on what to expect after the operation. Many many thanks x

Hello Hope , and welcome to the forum. What a shock to the system, first one, then two then three tumours. I’ve only had a lumpectomy , but there are loads of ladies on here who will jump onto this thread to help and support you. In the meantime, my advice is to be good to yourself. Get yourself set up with some goodies for skin, hair, hands as I found my operation and following treatments affected me. Stock up with a few essentials to protect the immune system, and promote healthy body tissue and recovery. You can get on line advice and order goods online at H&B. I always order Manuka honey ( general good health) in the 1p sale. I found button front jammies sensible to slide arms into as I came home with a drain so couldn’t lift my arms up. Bras are another consideration, and my BC nurse advised on this. I ended up with crop tops to support my stitched up boob!

sorry I can’t help with the medical intricacies of reconstruction, but someone will be along shortly, I’m sure. In the meantime, best wishes for your procedure and excellent recovery . :four_leaf_clover: :bouquet:

Hi Hope213 - and welcome from me too and a big hug. Annie has given you some good practical advice.

I had a mastectomy with immediate implant reconstruction a few years ago, so I’m happy to chat and answer any questions you think of. Most hospitals it seems, but not all, use drains after the operation so you may want to get some sort of bag to hold the drains in - I bought mine from Drain Dollies (if you look on their website you will see what I mean, and may already have something that might work), but some hospitals also give them out. Definitely front opening pyjamas and shirts/tops - it took me quite a long time to be able to get clothes on easily over my head (but I am a bit of a wimp!). 

You will be given arm exercises to do and it really is vital that you do them as often as your team tell you, little and often. It is hard to lift your arm for a while after the op, so you might think about moving say tea/coffee/biscuits/essentials down from high shelves in your kitchen. Accept any help that is offered too - I’m sure people are allowed to help even in lockdown.

One thing I want to warn you of is the possible side effects of the general anaesthetic. I felt really down after my op, wasn’t sure why, but my team told me that it can be caused by the GA. It may not affect you, but if you are warned you will at least understand what is happening.

The early days seem slow, but it won’t be long before you are back doing your normal activities. Get stocked up with good TV to watch/books to read/chat with friends - whatever makes you happy. I wish you all the very best and please do ask any questions at all. 

Evie xx

Hello Hope

I had a mastectomy with immediate implant reconstruction at the end of July. I was lucky that the Letrozole which I’d been taking for 4 months, had worked like magic and reduced the tumour so I could have a nipple and skin sparing operation - so only one wound site. I was also “lucky” that I was diagnosed and treated during Lockdown so my local hospital (which is brilliant) was pushing all operations to a private clinic, where I was the only patient on the ward!

I was in surgery for 4 hours and in recovery for 3 hours. I was very groggy for the next 24 hours and the nurses had to help me onto a commode as I couldn’t get to the toilet on my own but that was the anaesthetic and I was independently mobile by day 2. The effects of the anaesthetic - tired, a bit out of it - lasted a good couple of weeks but I’m a bit of a sleepyhead anyway and I’m sure everyone’s different.

The pain wasn’t too bad at all, although I do have a high pain threshold. Apparently they packed the wound with lots of antibiotics and painkillers during surgery, then the nurses gave me painkillers every 4 hours - paracetamol and codeine as well as antibiotics. I could have asked for more but didn’t need to. I was given a supply to bring home but managed on the paracetamol, gradually reducing them. After 4 weeks, I wasn’t taking any at all.

The biggest challenge for me was stiffness in my arm and shoulder and the drain which stayed in for at least a week. I also had an alarm system on a plastic tube, going into my dressing which was like a thick bit of clingfilm which seemed to be vacuum packed to my boob. Apparently the alarm goes off if the vacuum seal starts to come undone, although this didn’t happen to me. My breast cancer nurse gave me a tote bag to keep the drain and alarm in and I’d say this is really useful - keeps you organised and helps with sleeping. I found sleeping on my back difficult - I usually sleep on the side where I had the surgery and I’m still not back to that yet, although I’m getting there!

I was also ordered to wear a compression bra 24/7 for at least 6 weeks. It took me ages to find something suitable - must have tried everything in M&S - and eventually went expensive, although the BCN helpfully gave me a discount code. I also made sure I had a good supply of loose, front-buttoning tops - it would have been almost impossible to pull anything on over my head, with or without help.

I was lucky that my mastectomy was on my non-dominant side so I didn’t “accidentally” pick up or reach for things with the painful arm. I did the exercises they give you - maybe not as religiously as I should have - and gradually expanded my reach. I did find the shoulder and arm pain difficult to live with and sometimes thought that I’d never feel normal again. I’m now nearly 4 months post surgery and do feel “normal” most of the time. My arm still doesn’t go up as high or as straight as the other one but I think that’s because I can feel that the scar is still healing. I’ve learned to trust that it will get there eventually. I drive, work and go about my life quite happily - although not tried a pilates or yoga class just yet, don’t think I’ll be doing a plank anytime soon! The implant is slightly strange - a lot firmer and smoother than I’d expected - and the lack of sensation is disconcerting but that’s a small price to pay. It looks good with or without clothes. Emotionally, I don’t feel as though I’ve lost anything - rather it feels great that the cancer has gone. 

If there’s anything else you’d like to know, ask away. There are lots of lovely ladies on this forum with lots of different experiences .

Sending hugs

Susie x

Hi Hope,

Welcome to the forum and hope you are keeping well as best as you can.

I was diagnosed with BC in May. Very similar situation to yours, I initially felt a lump, scans showed another tiny cancerous lump in the same breast, the left breast was fine. As a result, my consultation decided Mastectomy was the way to go. I was 44 when I was diagnosed.

I had an operation in June, was in the hospital for 7-days (it was private). Due to covid, I was not offered immediate reconstruction. So it’s still delayed and conversations will start happening soon for this. I have decided to stay flat on the one side and move ahead with my prosthesis and start enjoying life again. I’m glad the cancer is gone, all done by the end of June.

Ops Recovery was about 6 weeks, but getting back to normal activities took a long time for me, I had to learn to just flow with how I felt daily and be kind to myself. Give yourself time to relax and follow your body signals. Some days, you want to just lie in and watch films, read, or even snooze. Other days, you have lots of energy and can move about a lot. However, the arm exercises and gentle daily walks in the garden, down the road helped a lot. My drain was in situ for the week. 

lots of information to take in, Its great you found this forum early and you can get useful information from the lovely ladies on here. 

I hope the above helped a bit and wish you well. 


Hello Hope I too started with one lump then two…eventually six in one breast so I remember the disappointment of having a mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy. However, I am now really glad i had the mastectomy. My reconstruction is not perfect but pretty good. I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be naked with a new partner if that ever happened. Before the mastectomy I thought I could never consider that again. Now it would make almost no difference. I thought I was recovering well in the early days but now realise it has taken a full year to get back to my new normal.

I am 61 and last week was up on my roof fixing it and next week I will start re roofing properly.

I have never in my life done this before but lack of funds mean if I want it done I have to do it myself. Having a mastectomy is not even relevent. So I hope in a year you will also do everything and more that you have done so far  and not give breast cancer very much thought. There is truly lovely sunshine at the end of this tunnel for most of us. You just have to get through this scary bit first. All the best Noddy

Little Noddy, I love your heartwarming response. You sound so confident and happy. So lovely for other people to hear about your positive experience. I too feel very much the same but am often reluctant to go on about it in case I come across as a know it all who has come through the other side. I am so grateful and happy and I do think it’s important to highlight that it is possible to be so after a diagnosis as you have done. 

Hope213, you will be well looked after tomorrow. Keep us posted about your recovery.