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Getting Back to Daily Activities

Is there anything I cannot do after surgery?

  • DO NOT drive a motor vehicle until you have full movement back in your arm and shoulder.
  • DO NOT drive while you are taking your prescription pain medication because the medication may affect your ability to drive safely.
  • DO NOT drink alcohol while taking prescription pain medication because taking both together can be dangerous.
  • DO NOT lift anything weighing more than 10 pounds for 4 weeks after the surgery because it may damage the incision.

Will I feel tired during my recovery?

  • It is normal to feel tired for up to 2 months after your surgery.
  • This may make it hard for you to do all of your regular activities.
  • Learning ways to best use your energy will help you to complete activities and get through the day:
    • Listen to what your body tells you.
    • Set small goals for the day and don't worry if you don't get everything done.
    • Take rest breaks often.

For 4 to 6 weeks after surgery:

  • DO NOT do any activity that involves heavy lifting, pushing, pulling or repetition with your arm like vacuuming, ironing, carrying heavy grocery bags or laundry baskets.
  • DO NOT lift young children or small pets with your arm.

When can I wash?

  • You can shower 48 hours after surgery.
  • Remove the dressing around the drain when you shower.
  • Place the drain over your shoulder while showering or attach it to a lanyard.
  • Gently pat dry using a clean towel.
  • Apply a clean dry dressing after you are dry.
  • DO NOT use any soaps, creams or lotions over the area of surgery unless you havebeen told to do so by your doctor or nurse.
  • DO NOT soak in a bathtub and DO NOT go swimming in a pool, lake or ocean until at least 4 weeks after the surgery.

What type of clothing can I wear?

  • Wear comfortable, soft, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Shirts that button or zipper at the front are the easiest to wear after surgery.
  • Your drain can be attached to the bottom of your shirt or waistband of your pants with a safety pin.

How should I sleep?

  • Sleep in a position that is comfortable for you.
  • Consider placing your arm on a pillow when you are sleeping.

What should I eat after surgery?

  • You can return to your regular diet after surgery.
  • Adding more fibre to your diet will help to prevent constipation.
  • A dietitian is available to answer your questions about food and nutrition.
  • Please call 416-480-4623 to make an appointment.

When can I go back to work?

  • Talk to your surgeon about returning to work. You may require a referral to the occupational therapist or physiotherapist.
  • As a general rule, you will likely need to wait 8 weeks before you return to work after having an axillary node dissection. If you need more treatment, the time away from work may be longer.
  • You may be able to return to work sooner if your job does not involve heavy lifting.

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