After undergoing a mastectomy, the recovery process may take four to six week. Self-care instructions for at home will be provided post-surgery in regard to incisions and drains as well as prescription pain medication. A prescription of Vicodin will be provided for when pain is felt, however, Ibuprofen or Tylenol are alternatives - especially if an individual has any allergies or medication restrictions. People may not return to housework or driving until drains have been removed and have finished the prescription narcotics.
Any inserted drains are normally removed after one or two weeks post-operation, but this depends on how much fluid has been draining in the space operated on. Drainage cups will be provided by the surgeon and the individual will record the amount of fluid drained every couple of hours. The healthcare provider will also remove the dressing and stitches after seven to ten days. And sutures may be removed in one or two weeks but can absorb on their own. Sterile gauze pads will also be given to the person post-surgery, but extras will be useful to protect scar and drain areas at home.
Soreness in the throat may occur due to the breathing tube inserted during surgery. Tea with honey, popsicles or throat lozenges can soothe throat pain.
Discomfort varies by person but there are several items to lighten pain related sensation in the upper body and assist the person to perform daily tasks. Since the drains have been secured with stitches, a mesh shower bag can hold the drainage bulbs and free the hands while showering. And having a shower seat and a detachable shower head will also allow the individual to sit and cleanse independently.
To increase overall support and reduce swelling, a compression bra may be necessary. The surgeon will provide instructions for the bra or compression vest and indicate other types that can be worn. Some people have found that a cotton camisole with a built-in bra is a comfortable top to wear. If the person steps into the camisole and slowly pulls it upwards to the midriff, they will not be lifting the arms as instructed. While recovering, there all also post-operative surgical jackets with inside pockets to hold the drains.
At night, a mastectomy pillow can secure the person. The pillow rests underneath the arms and over the breast area while protecting the incisions. And since the chest will feel heavy, a wedge pillow props the person up on the couch or bed.
Contact the healthcare provider in the instance of allergic reaction to medication, excessive pain, swelling, bleeding, fever more than one hundred degrees Fahrenheit, constipation, discharge or odor from the wound.
“‘If Ya Don't Know, Now Ya Know’ - A Guide to What Is Needed Post-Mastectomy – Abramson Cancer Center.” Penn Medicine - Abramson Cancer Center, www.pennmedicine.org/cancer/about/focus-on-cancer/2018/october/list-of-post-mastectomy-items-needed.
“Mastectomy.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 8 Oct. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/mastectomy/about/pac-20394670.
UCSF Health. “Mastectomy: Instructions After Surgery.” Ucsfhealth.org, UCSF Health, 6 Nov. 2019, www.ucsfhealth.org/education/mastectomy-instructions-after-surgery.