How Long Does It Take to Recover from a Mastectomy?

5 women celebrating breast cancer awareness

Mastectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of the entire breast as a way of treating breast cancer. It’s often considered when a breast-conserving procedure (lumpectomy) is no longer an option. There are several different types of mastectomies, depending on how much tissue is removed and how the surgery is done. Types of mastectomy include simple procedure, skin-sparing, nipple-sparing, radical, modified, and a double.

How the Procedure Works

A mastectomy is typically performed under general anesthesia and can take two to three hours. The incisions are in the shape of an oval running across the width of the breast. After the incision, the surgeon will separate the breast tissue from the skin and chest wall muscle. All of the breast tissue lying on the side of the body to the breastbone in the center is removed.

Most women undergoe either an implant-based or autologous mastectomy.

In most cases, the nipple and areola are also removed. The skin is then closed with stitches, and temporary tubes with plastic bulbs are attached to allow fluid from the wound to drain out. A bandage then covers the site.

How Long is the Recovery Time?

Hospital stays after mastectomy surgery average three days or less. However, most patients will stay just overnight. How long it takes to recover from surgery depends on the type and extent of procedures done. For instance, the stay and overall recovery may be longer if breast reconstruction was also performed. Most women can often return to their regular activities within about four weeks.

Side effects of mastectomy can include swelling at the surgery site, numbness in the chest or around the arm, pain or tenderness, buildup of blood or clear fluid in the wound, nerve pain, or limited arm of shoulder movement.

Breast Cancer & Masectomy Infographic

After-Care Health and Maintenance Tips

Before you leave the hospital, your healthcare provider will give you written instruction and mastectomy recovery tips. The information should cover:

  • Taking pain medication and possibly antibiotics
  • Caring for the dressing over your incision
  • Caring for the surgical drain
  • Recognizing signs of infection
  • Recognizing signs of lymphedema
  • Exercising your arm
  • How to bath and shower after surgery
  • When to resume wearing a bra or start wearing a prosthesis
  • Nutritional needs
  • When to call a medical practitioner
  • Any restrictions on activity

Contact Vanguard Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Today with Questions

If you would like more information regarding mastectomy procedures, contact Vanguard Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Our caring and knowledgeable staff will be there every step of the way, guiding you through the process and assisting you with any information you may need.