Tips to Improve Recovery Following Breast Cancer
After surgery, you may be discharged with an external drainage device attached near the incision. The drains are used to collect fluid from the surgery scar. Make sure you understand how to use the device before leaving the hospital. Learn how to empty the drains and measure the fluid. The fluid will gradually decrease. Its color may also change from cherry red to a yellow-red. You will be required to remove the drainage system within a week after surgery.
Getting Your Incision Wet
You should keep your incision wet and dry one week after the surgery. As such, you may opt for sponge baths instead of showers. If the incision is dry, you can bath in a bathtub. Small pieces of tape will always remain over the incision but will eventually fall by themselves. Avoid swimming until your surgeon gives you consent.
After surgery, doctors will give you a special bra to hold bandages in place. You will be told when to remove this bra and how to change dressing after surgery. If possible, look for someone to help you change the bandage.
Taking Pain Medication
You will be given a prescription for pain medication after surgery. Ask your doctor if it is right to take over-the-counter pain relievers. Avoid aspirin and any products that contain aspirin within the first three days after breast cancer surgery. That will help you reduce the risk of bleeding.
The area near the incision will turn black after breast cancer surgery. However, the dark color will fade away in a few days. It's normal to have numbness or discomfort in the armpit or on the inner part of the upper arm. A warm shower may give you comfort. However, you should shower one week after the surgery. When applying deodorant or shaving under the arm, look in the mirror to avoid irritating the scar. The area near the incision may feel thick and sturdy as it heals. Massage the area with pure lanolin or mold lotion to soften it. Don't use highly perfumed lotions or any products containing alcohol to avoid irritation. The scar will soften after a few weeks.
Body exercises can be essential after breast cancer surgery. Stretching exercises help regain mobility after surgery. However, ask your surgeon when you should start doing exercises.
- Arm swings
While standing, keep your elbows straight and swing your arms back and forward. Repeat the process ten times while increasing the distance of each swing.
- Arm lifts
With your elbows close to your ears, stand or sit on the edge of a chair and lift your arms over your head. Repeat the process at least five times.
Regular follow-up exams are essential after undergoing breast cancer treatment. As such, your surgeon can carefully watch your progress to ensure breast cancer doesn't return. You undertake checkups in body parts such as the neck, chest, and underarm. Blood tests, X-rays, and scans are not routinely necessary.
Undertaking Breast Self-Checks
A woman who had cancer in one of her breasts has a high risk of developing cancer in her other breast. As such, monthly breast self-checks are important. Check both the treated and untreated areas of your breast. Breast cancer prognostics helps cancer patients determine the risk of cancer recurrence. Avoid having an injection given or blood sample taken on the side you had breast cancer surgery. Inform your doctor that you had breast cancer before they take a blood sample or give an injection on your arm.
Call your doctor immediately if the arm near the incision starts to swell. You can reduce swelling by elevating your arm on pillows. Let your doctor know when you have increased drainage near the incision, severe pain, or other physical problems such as:
- Change in menstrual periods
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
- Prolonged digestive problems
- Dizziness, hoarseness, or coughing