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Getting Back to Daily Activities

Is there anything I cannot do after surgery?

  • DO NOT drive a motor vehicle for 24 hours after surgery because it may be dangerous with all the medications from the anesthetic.
  • 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.
  • DO NOT do repetitive arm or leg exercises for 3 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 may have a shower 48 hours after surgery.
  • 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.
  • DO NOT scrub the incision.
  • DO NOT use soaps, creams or lotions over the incision until it is fully healed.
  • Gently pat dry using a clean towel.
  • If you have a drain:
    • Plan to have your shower just before seeing your nurse in your home.
    • You do not have to remove or cover the dressing when you shower. Your nurse will remove the wet dressing and put on a clean, dry dressing.
    • Place the drain over your shoulder while showering or attach to a lanyard.
    • However, if you see the nurse at a clinic, then take off the dressing before you shower. Apply a clean dry dressing after you are dry.

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 start my normal activities?

  • You can do most of your normal activities 1 to 2 days after surgery, except for heavy lifting or repetitive movements with the arm or leg that is on the same side as the surgery.
  • You can go back to your normal diet when you feel hungry. There is no special diet after surgery.

When can I go back to work?

  • You can go back to work 8 weeks after a wide local excision surgery that included a sentinel lymph node biopsy.
  • Some patients are able to return to work sooner if their job does not involve heavy lifting.

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