Recovering from a mastectomy

Most people who have a mastectomy recover well after the procedure and don't develop complications.

In most cases,it takes three to six weeks to fully recover.

After the operation

When you wake up after the operation,you will probablyfeel sore. This pain can be controlled with painkillers. It's very important to tell your doctor or nurse when you're in pain, because they can adapt your medication accordingly.

After the operation, you may have a drip in your arm so that you can be given fluids until you're able to eat and drink again.

Wound care

Following a mastectomy, you may have one or more drainage tubes coming from the wound site. The purpose of these tubes is to drain blood and tissue fluid away from the wound to prevent it collecting and causing swelling or infection. Your surgeon will decide how long the tubes need to stay in for. It may be as short as 24 hours, or up to a few days.

The dressing over your wound will need to stay in place for at least a couple of days. During this time, it may need to be replaced and the wound cleaned. In some cases, the same dressing will need to stay on for a week or so.

You may have dissolvable stitches that don't need to be removed. However, some peoplehave stitches or metalclips that need to be removed after7 to 10 days. Your wound should have healed during this time.

Preparing for home

The length of your hospital stay will depend on thetype of surgery you have, but you'll usuallyneed to stay in hospital for about two or three days. However, it isn't unusual to only stay in hospital for one night.

Before you leave hospital, your specialist or nurse will talk to you about what to do when you get home. You will probably need a lot of rest. Gentle exercises may be recommended to overcome the stiffness of your arm and to encourage healthy circulation in the area that's been operated on.

Your specialist or nurse will discuss suitable bras and prostheses (bra inserts) if you haven't had breast reconstruction. If this is the case, you'll be given a lightweight artificial breast shape that you can put inside your bra. This is usually temporary, until your wound has completely healed. You'll eventually be given a permanent prosthesis.


After having a mastectomy, you'll have a scar going across your chest and under your arm, although the shape maybe differentif you had animmediate breast reconstruction.

Your specialist or nurse willadvise youon how to look after your scar. If you're uncomfortable about how your scar looks, there are a number of possible treatments, such as further corrective surgery and using make-up, to cover the scar.


Talking to others

Recovering from a mastectomy can be emotionally difficult. Some people find it helpful to talk to others who have hadthe operation, both before and after the mastectomy.

You can get informationon contacting others who have had a mastectomy from your specialist breast cancer care nurse and from organisations such as:

  • Macmillan Cancer Support has informationongroups you can join and a support line you can call for free 0808 808 0000 (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
  • Cancer Research UK provides adviceoncoping emotionally and a helpline you can call free of charge on 0808 800 4040 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm)

You can alsofind cancer support services in your area.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016