The recovery from mastectomy surgery begins in the PACU, or post anesthesia care unit, where the patient is monitored while the anesthesia drugs wear off. After that, the patient is taken to a hospital room where they can be monitored for any problems for 34 to 48 hours after surgery.
During the recovery, the first 2 to 3 days will be the most painful, with the pain easing somewhat each day thereafter. It is best to avoid any sort of activity that includes a bouncing movement, such as running, during the recovery phase. Lifting is discouraged at this time, as is raising the arms above the head, which can put strain on the incision and cause increased pain.
Depression after the diagnosis of breast cancer, with or without surgery, is a problem for many patients. Depression can make it difficult for a patient to recover from surgery or take part in related decision making. It can also heighten the fatigue that patients feel after surgery as well as chemotherapy and radiation. It is easy to confuse the symptoms of a normal recovery from surgery, so it is important to be familiar with the symptoms of depression.
Physically, a patient with no surgical complications should be able to return to vigorous activity within 6 to 8 weeks, if additional treatments do not cause too much fatigue. Returning to a sex life after a mastectomy should also be possible at that time, if desired.
Patients who opt not to have reconstruction may need prosthetics that create a balance between a natural breast and a breast that has been removed. There are many mastectomy products available, primarily online, including bras, breast forms and swimsuits.
In addition to surgery, most patients have radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of both. The decision is based upon the severity of the cancer, the wishes of the patient and the oncologist’s opinion.