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What Can I Expect After My Breast Surgery?

Oct 09, 2023

What Can I Expect After My Breast Surgery?
Seeing more pink? That’s because October is breast cancer awareness month. Review our guide on the aftercare and recovery process following breast cancer surgery.

Each year, oncologists across the country perform over 100,000 breast cancer surgeries either preventatively or to remove existing cancer. Breast surgeries like lumpectomy or mastectomy remove tumors, and often at least some healthy tissue, to prevent cancer from growing and spreading. There are many different types of surgery, and your oncologists will work with you to create a personalized strategy. 

Our team of world-class oncologists at Arizona Center for Cancer Care is committed to providing exceptional breast cancer treatment to patients in Avondale, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise, Anthem, Peoria, Fountain Hills, Wickenburg, Apache Junction, Sun City, Sun City West, Goodyear, and Tempe, Arizona. 

Most people who get breast cancer surgery are able to return to their normal activities within a few weeks, though recovery times vary. Review our brief guide on what to expect after your upcoming operation:

Anticipating your postsurgery care

Postsurgical care might seem dauntingly complex on the surface, but our team is prepared to walk you through the steps until you feel confident about breast surgery aftercare. You may be discharged from surgery with a drainage device to prevent fluid buildup in your breast area. You’ll learn how to empty the drain and monitor the fluid for signs of complications. One to three weeks after surgery, our team removes the drain. 

Of course, you’ll have to manage bandages too. For breast surgery, you also receive a special bra to hold the bandages in place. Be sure to follow instructions closely for changing your bandages and dressings, and keep the incision dry for one week after your surgery. 

Special exercises help you to regain your mobility, particularly your shoulder mobility, after breast cancer surgery. The team advises you on when to start these exercises and how to perform them. Eventually, you’ll be able to ease back into your typical daily activities like driving, working, and going to the gym. Though the wound heals in six to eight weeks, it typically takes longer for your breast area and shoulder to feel both comfortable and mobile. 

Not all healing is the same

Your rate of healing as well as the side effects you experience are dependent on several key factors including the type of tumor you have, the type of breast surgery you get, and your own age and overall health. Your oncology team at Arizona Center for Cancer Care evaluates your tumor to determine which type of surgery is best suited for your needs:


Also called breast-conserving surgery, lumpectomy removes a breast tumor and a margin of healthy tissue while leaving the remainder of your breast tissue in place. 


There are several types of mastectomy surgery, which remove your breast in its entirety. Sometimes, a surgeon can keep your skin and nipple in place. 

Other treatments you may need

Despite its success rates in removing cancerous tissue, breast cancer surgery isn’t always a fix-all. You may need additional therapies based on the characteristics of your tumor even if you had a full mastectomy including:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormonal therapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy

Taking part in treatments like these ensures all of the cancer has been addressed, including metastasizing cancer. Radiation therapy is especially vital after lumpectomies for younger patients, patients with larger tumors, and patients with hormone receptor-negative tumors

Are you prepared?

Whether or not you’re the type of person to prepare for upcoming events long before they happen, consider taking steps today to prepare your living space for your upcoming lumpectomy or mastectomy recovery. You should place all essential items within your reach (no high shelves) and prepare a comfortable chair or recliner to sleep in as you heal. 

There is no bed rest requirement: You’ll be up and walking with supervision the same day as your surgery. Getting moderate movement every day helps you avoid complications like blood clots and pneumonia. Be sure to clear walkways in your home to avoid fall hazards. 

Our team at Arizona Center for Cancer Care is ready to answer all of your remaining questions about breast surgery recovery and aftercare. Call the nearest office to schedule an appointment or book a visit online today.