Breast Cancer Surgery Recovery

It’s important to prepare for your breast cancer surgery recovery. You should arrange to have a family member, friend or partner help with transportation and daily tasks immediately after surgery.

Recovery Details:

Your hospital stay, pain and mobility will all depend on the type of surgery you have and other personal factors. Below is some common information about recovery from breast cancer surgery. Ask your surgeon what to expect after your surgery and the best way to prepare for your recovery.

Questions to ask your surgeon


Will people know you’ve had surgery? Breast cancer scars can be a visible reminder of cancer and affect a woman’s self-confidence and body image. Ask your surgeon where you will have a scar and ask if you’re a candidate for Hidden Scar surgery.

Hospital Stays:

Depending on your surgery, you may leave the same day or stay overnight in the hospital for one or more nights. Lumpectomies (especially without lymph node biopsy) are often outpatient procedures, meaning you leave the same day as your surgery. Mastectomies are more invasive procedures and usually require staying in the hospital for at least one night. Different types of breast reconstruction can also affect your hospital stay.


If you require general anesthesia for your surgery, you will be taken to a recovery room after your procedure. You may feel cold after your surgery from the anesthesia. Ask your surgeon what to expect.


Depending on your surgery, you may be able to manage your pain with over-the-counter pain relievers. Or, your surgeon may write a prescription for stronger pain medication. Ask your surgeon which medication is best to take for your recovery period following breast cancer surgery.

Additionally, ice may help with bruising or swelling.

What to Wear:

Bring comfortable clothes to go home in after surgery. Depending on the type of surgery you have, it may be painful to lift your arms or wear certain garments. There are special clothing lines designed for breast cancer patients. AnaOno has designed intimates and lounge wear that’s easy to put on and comfortable.

Exercise and Movement:

According to, “there’s medical evidence that people recover more quickly and more effectively the sooner they get moving after surgery.”1 Ask your surgeon which exercises you may be able to do after your surgery.

Drain Management:

Depending on your procedure, your surgeon may place a tube in your breast to drain excess fluid during the breast surgery recovery process. Your surgeon will give you instructions for how to care for these drains and what to expect.


One of the potential risks of breast cancer surgery is lymphedema.2 During a lumpectomy, mastectomy or sentinel node biopsy, your surgeon may remove one or more lymph nodes. This may cause some lymphatic fluid to build up, causing lymphedema. This may make your arm swell. See your doctor if you think you have lymphedema.

Emotional Recovery

Your physical recovery from breast cancer surgery should not be your only concern. Cancer is an emotional journey that affects your mental wellness, body image and sexuality. Review a list of resources for support groups or ask your surgeon for post-cancer support. You deserve to live your best life after cancer.

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