What to expect immediately after mastecomy

Here in Canada, mastectomy is a day surgery. I am concerned about after I go home. There will be a visiting nurse the next day. I know I should trust I will get pain relief but it’s the management of pain that I am worried about. Also have seen conflicting times for recovery, what is the average time for a simple mastectomy with sentinel lymph node procedure? Thank you

Hi there,
I found it relatively ok. I had reconstruction at the same time. Most important thing is the mind the drains and follow the advice to the letter. I didn’t find it overly painful but was advised to keep topping up on the pain medication as opposed to stopping and starting which I was told was more beneficial. I was back in work six weeks later and felt great. Best of luck with the operation.

Thank you are the first person to say it was relatively okay. I know pain is different for everyone. Thank you again

I had mastectomy with reconstruction and a reduction on my other side last year. I had surgery in the afternoon and was home first thing the next morning with a vacuum type dressing and painkillers. I found it all okay. Took painkillers for first couple of days then found I didn’t need them. Recovery was quick for me as no complications and went away for the weekend to a festival 3 weeks after my surgery. Wishing you lots of luck with your surgery xxx

And to echo other post I found it better to wean off painkillers as they can cause other problems like constipation. I didn’t find that I had a lot of pain at all.

I think the biggest challenge of the operation wasn’t physical but the waiting for the results from the sentinel node biopsy.

Also make sure to do the post surgical exercises as they really help you get back to normal.

Hope it goes well!

I was back to normal pretty much in two weeks. Pain management was no issue. I just took my meds on time and emptied out my drains when I was told. I didn’t think it that bad.

Hi @barb709
Mastectomy is day surgery as far as I am aware here in UK too.
I had mastectomy and sentinel node removal, home later that day, no drain, no dressing-plastic type spray that allowed me to shower next day.
Honestly, I had pain in hospital immediately on waking but then nothing much. I was sent home with codeine and took none, not even paracetamol.
Interestingly my consultant told me I would likely not need any pre-op and I thought, typical man who has never had this done, what does he know. But I had to concede it was fine for me, although we are all different, and I know not the same for everyone.
Next day I had to start exercises several times a day where I could feel pulling but not pain. Please do the exercises, really important for movement down the line.
I had a squidgy pillow that I put in a bamboo pillowcase-lovely soft and cool. I put my arm on it to rest it and it also felt protective on that side. Under my arm felt tingly and the soft/coolness was good for it.
I used the pillow in bed too to stop me incase I rolled onto my scar or incase my husband rolled too near. I could then rest it on the pillow if I laid on my back.
I invested in bamboo spaghetti vests top stepped into them-easy to dress then a hoodie if cold-bad side in arm first.
I showered/washed my hair the next morning, was pegging out washing 2 days post surgery. My dad and daughters had all come to help but really weren’t needed.
I hope this gives you a few ideas and hope it is similar for you.
Wishing you well for your op.

I think others have said, we are all different but it is very manageable. I had absolutely no pain and not even a single paracetamol. So please don’t worry too much.
Good luck with it x

Hello Barb709. I had a single mastectomy. Home the same day & surgeon advised me he gives a nerve block injection so no pain for at least 24 hrs. I was discharged with oramorph & paracetamol. I only used the oramorph for 1 day & then paracetamol for a few days. I did sleep propped up in bed with a pillow supporting my arm for a few weeks. It was more comfortable but everyone is different. All the very best for your surgery and rest as much as you feel you need to afterwards. I was super tired for a few weeks. Listen to your body and you wont go far wrong. Take care

Hi, I had a simple mastectomy with sentinel node biopsy on 4 nodes on 17th April this year. No reconstruction. My anaesthetist injected three nerve blockers injections into my chest shoulder and armpit and I was sent home same day with 2 drains in. Dissolving stitches and wound glue used. I didn’t have much pain from the breast area but found the lymph node area most painful, swelling and very tight. Getting t-shirts on and off was tricky and I couldn’t bear anything with an underarm seam as it rubbed. The drains are also a nuisance and once they are out you feel a lot better. Painkillers wise, I was given ibuprofen, paracetamol and a nerve blockers amitriptyline to take in the evening. I didn’t need any other pain relief.

I found I had to sleep on my back as mastectomy side was too sore and on the other side it was tricky to sleep due to the drains which were removed on day 5 and day 8 post surgery. To give some context on recovery I had a bone scan 1 week after and could easily walk the 1/4 mile from car park to hospital to have this done without to much pain.

Exercises were tricky for the first 2 weeks, week three they got easier. Week 4 I saw my surgeon and he told me off for not pushing myself on the exercises and for being too cautious - I was still quite swollen round my biopsy site but then I really pushed myself and by week 6 I had my full movement back and was at hospital for my first chemo session.

Hope that helps.

Hi Barb

And hello to Canada - have a few friends around Vancouver.

I found the mastectomy and full lymph node removal the easiest part of my treatment - I knew I was having chemo and rads. In and out the same day and about 2-3 hours bed to bed with prep for the op, op and recovery ward in between. I can’t remember the exact amount of time as it was just over 3 years ago - closer to 2 I think.

It didn’t really hurt - just sore. Nothing paracetamol for a few days couldn’t fix. The drain was a bit of a faff. My hospital gave me a little bag to carry it around.

I found a V shaped pillow gave great support at night for back sleeping. Again the hospital gave me stuff - a soft heart-shaped pillow to help support between my arm and op site.

And they gave me a softie bra and (a bit hopeless at 1st until my proper one) prosthetic.

I didn’t/haven’t had a recon. I wasn’t overly bothered about looking at my chest post-op. The brusing was pretty! It healed quickly - lots of water-based moisturiser as soon as advised. I think that when the stitches came out.

I went out for an eye test before my drain came out. I chucked the thing in the inside pocket of a tracksuit jacket. I was pretty much back to normal within 4 weeks, in time for when my chemo started.

So the main take out for me is quick procedure, not painful and not too life-style restricting.

I hope it goes well.

AnGELa x

Dear barb709

Thank you for contacting Breast Cancer Now.

We are a national organisation providing information and support to anyone living in the UK. The information we offer is specific to what is currently available in the UK.

Because treatments and healthcare services vary so much in different countries, it is difficult for us to answer queries from outside of the UK. The specific questions you have about care at home, pain management and recovery times will need to be answered by your treatment team.

You might find this link helpful in finding a cancer organisation in your country.

Kind regards


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