When to return to work after mastectomy?

Hi All,

I know we are all different, but I was wondering what was the average amount of time to have off of work after a mastectomy. I had mine on 15th Jan 08, so am almost 4 weeks post surgery. I have a very physical job (window dresser) which involves a lot of lifting and carrying, my arm is still very stiff and the scar feels tight and is not fully closed yet.

My company have been very good, and have not put any pressure on me to come back, but I just wanted to know out of curiosity, how long other ladies have had off of work?

Many Thanks,

Tracy x

I took a total of 10 months off work as i had to have chemo and radio after my mastecomy. It is a purely p[ersonal thing that no one can judge you on. I returned to work part time initially then after 4 weeks went back to full time. I work as a manager of a hostel.Istill get tired very easily a year after op, and wonder sometimes if i went back too soon, the main reasons being money and boredom. Don’t push yourself, you have just had a serious op and your body and mind need lots of rest and cossetting before you return. Once you do return it becomes very difficult to turn round to your employers and say sorry i need more time off, so good luck for the future

For my first mastectomy last March, I took 6 weeks off work, which , for me, wasn’t really enough. Got tired very easily, couldn’t lift much, found getting up off my chair a strain (I’m a receptionist). Then there was the emotional stress that went along with it all.

I’m having another mastectomy in April and I’m taking 8 weeks off this time.

My consultant said it takes about 4-5 months for your body to return back to how it was after a mastectomy, so be kind to yourself.

Perhaps a phased return (ie a few hours a day, or a couple of days a week for a few weeks - build up to your normal hours slowly) might be an idea.

Good luck!

Jacki xx

I am a nurse and had mastectomy in Dec 10th - I went back to work 4 weeks later but was on rehab programme - so was gonna be gradually increased to full time. Unfortunately, 2 weeks into rehab programme, my beloved mum passed away so its all up in the air again. I am now taking 4 weeks annual leave (if I dont use them I will lose them) - altho will see how I feel in a couple of weeks - maybe restart programme where I left off. Also gonna start rads on Monday so dont know how I will feel thro that.

Everyone of us are individual and have different jobs - hopefully most employers are supportive of something like this and we just have to listen to our bodies.

good luck to all


Thanks for your replies, I shall continue to take it day by day - I still have to have 5 weeks of radiotherapy, so will see how that goes.

Fiona, I am so sorry to hear about your dear mum - I can only imagine how you must feel, I hope all goes well with your radiotherapy and will be thinking of you.

Good Luck,

Tracy xx

Thank you Tracy - just feeling a bit numb and dazed at the mo

Good luck with your treatment too


Hi Tracy,

Bear in mind we are all different, my job is not quite as physical as yours but I have to drive long distances two or three times a week. I took 8 weeks off work, then when chemo started I had one week off after each treatment. I am a bit of a workaholic though and really enjoy my job so I had a driving force to get back to work.

The most important thing is to listen to your body and possibly have a graduated return to work.

Good luck


I had a masectomy and snb in September for dcis and then 15 sessions of radiotherapy, I have just returned to worlk this week Yesterday actually am on a phased return, I must admit I only did three hours yesterday and I am absolutely whacked. My boss is very sympathetic and has said if I need more time of she will keep my job for me. Unfortunately I have suffered nerve dammage and am still on pain killers, so we are hoping that returning to work albeit slowly will help with movement and possibly will help me to take less pain killers.

It does seem that we are all different and that is possibley why we don’t get told all the possible side efeects, because they don’t know how people are going to react.


Hi Heather,

I went to see my Doctor on Tuesday and he has given me a certificate until the 17th March, so that will be about 8 weeks. My boss has been really sympathetic to me as well and has also suggested a phased return. I am wondering how I will feel during my radiotherapy, as it looks as if I will be back at work when I start it - I am having 25 sessions in total, then a year of Herceptin.

Good luck and best wishes,

Tracy xxx

Hi Tracy
These sound like incredibly focussed women. My Mastectomy was June 07 my last chemo was Dec 07. I was really unwell with the chemo and couldn’t have thought of working inbetween.
I have just started Herceptin but have not worked since May. I am only just starting to feel that I am getting much better.

My job although not strenuous is very draining and do not feel able to return to my own job so will need to think of something else to return to.

Don’t rush back too soon, your health is too important.

Good Luck x

Hi Topper,

I did have a bad time when I changed chemo from AC to Taxotere and had to have about 3 weeks off, but everyone is effected differently by the treatment we are all going through.

If I find it too much when I return to work I shall have some more time off, I know my boss would not pressurise me to return before I am ready. I will see how the rads affect me.

I hope continue to feel well and wish you all the very best of luck,

Tracy xx


I started chemo in mid Oct 07 and took about a week off for each treatment. I had 3xFEC and 3xTAX, by the end of the TAX I was taking about 10 days off before going back to work. Luckily where I work I there wasn’t a huge amount expected of me, it was more a case of trying to keep to a routine.

I am now waiting for my surgery (in about 9 days) and I really don’t know how long I will be off but I have told all my friends to rota their visits in as I will be climbing the walls after a week!

Make the most of the time at home, I can’t talk as I find it very difficult to be a good patientc, can’t keep still for long…

All the best to you all

Caroline xx