My mastectomy surgery

Getting back to daily activities

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 the things you need to do in your day.
  • 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 heavy lifting, pushing, pulling or repetition with your affected arm(s) such as vacuuming, ironing, carrying heavy grocery bags or laundry baskets.
  • DO NOT lift young children or small pets with your affected arm(s).

When can I wash?

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

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.
  • When you feel comfortable, you can start wearing a bra.
  • Your drain can be attached to the bottom of your shirt or waistband of your pants with a safety pin.
  • Some women consider using a mastectomy camisole after surgery that has special pockets to hold the drain(s).
  • You will be given a list of places where you can buy this clothing.

How should I sleep?

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

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 drive?

  • Following surgery, arrange for a ride home.
  • DO NOT drive when taking your pain medication because it may cause you to become sleepy.
  • You can return to driving when you are pain free and have full normal movement of your arm(s).

When can I do my regular exercise?

  • Being active helps with your recovery from surgery.
  • You can start or return to your exercise program after speaking with your surgeon during your follow-up appointment.
  • Start back slowly and gradually.
  • You can start exercising with light weights (2 pounds) about 4 to 6 weeks after surgery.
  • You can do exercises that speed up your heart, like walking, as soon as you feel ready.

When can I go back to work?

  • Talk to your surgeon – 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 a mastectomy. If you are undergoing additional treatments, the time away from work may be longer.
  • Some patients may be able to return to work sooner if their job does not involve heavy lifting.

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