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Segmental Mastectomy: After Your Surgery

These discharge instructions will give you general information on caring for yourself after you leave the hospital. Please read these instructions and refer to this sheet in the next few weeks. Your doctor may also give you specific information. If you have any problems or questions after discharge, please call your doctor.

Activity

Your doctor will tell you when you may go back to activities that take a lot of strength, like driving and sports.  You should avoid heavy lifting, carrying, or pushing (nothing heavier than five pounds) until further notice. Take frequent rest periods. You may tire more easily than usual. After doing any activity, rest and elevate the arm affected by your surgery for a period of time equal to your activity time.

Continue doing the exercises given to you by your doctor's office after full range of motion has returned. The amount of time this takes will vary from person to person. Generally, after normal range of motion has returned, you may have some stiffness and soreness for two to three months. Stiffness and soreness are normal and will slowly go away.

When your doctor allows, begin sports or strenuous activities slowly. Don’t overdo it. This will give you a chance to rebuild your strength. Continue to be careful about heavy lifting or carrying (no more than 10 pounds) with your operative arm for several months after surgery to ensure proper healing. Your doctor will tell you when you can return to work.

Nutrition

You can go back to your normal diet as soon as you leave the hospital. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids (six to eight glasses a day). Try to eat a well-balanced diet. Daily portions of food from the meat, dairy, bread, and fruit and vegetable groups are necessary for your good health.

Hygiene

You may wash your hair. Follow your doctor’s advice on bathing. Generally, if your incision is not leaking fluid or separated, you may shower or tub bathe.

Pain control

You may have some mild discomfort. Take pain relievers as prescribed. You may need a stool softener because some pain medications can cause constipation. If none were prescribed or if your discomfort is mild, you may take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin). Do not take any product containing aspirin.  Call your doctor if the pain gets worse.

Incision care

Check your incision daily for increased redness, drainage, swelling, or separation of skin. Call your doctor if you see any of these symptoms. 

Drain care

If you have a drain in place, please refer to instructions provided for “Surgical Drain Care.”

Arm and hand care

If the lymph nodes under your arm were removed, there may be a greater chance of swelling in the arm. If possible, do not use that arm to have your blood pressure taken. If you need to have blood drawn or injections, use the other arm.

Here are some other guidelines:

  • Use hand lotion to soften cuticles instead of cutting them.
  • Use an electric shaver to shave your underarms. You may use a deodorant after the incision has completely healed.
  • Be careful when cooking, sewing, and gardening to avoid burns or needle or thorn pricks.  Wear oven mitts and garden gloves for protection.
  • Avoid heavy lifting with your operative arm – particularly with your arm in a dependent (hanging down) position. 
  • Be careful of carrying heavy handbags, briefcases, packages, grocery bags, or any other heavy load.  These should be carried in both arms at chest level and held close to your body.  It is also suggested that you limit lifting with the operative arm to 10 pounds in the future.
  • Do not place an over-the-shoulder strap bag or purse on the operative side.
  • Follow the exercises and instructions given to you by your physical or occupational therapist and your physician.

Follow-up

Please remember to call your doctor’s office for a follow-up appointment.

When to call your doctor

If you feel feverish or have shaking chills, take your temperature. If your temperature is 100.4 F (38 C) or above, call your doctor. The fever may mean there is an infection. You should also call your doctor if you have redness, draining, swelling, or separation of skin at your incision site.

Revised August 2012

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