When facing the prospect of mastectomy and breast cancer treatment, a patient is digesting more information than they may at any other time in life. There are many variables, numerous office visits, and a lot of detailed information being discussed. Inevitably, patients find that they have questions even once their process has begun, sometimes even after the process is over.
To help patients prepare as best they can, we’ll cover some of the common questions about breast reconstruction here.
Q. Will I be able to wear a normal bra after surgery?
Many patients wake up after surgery with a dressing or surgical bra having been applied. One mistake that patients make is believing they can receive the necessary support from an underwire bra. Often, the compression garment is worn for 4 to 6 weeks before the patient can go back to wearing a normal bra.
Q. When can I shower and exercise after surgery?
The surgeon may approve showering after 48 hours. Warm, soapy water may be used safely without strict protection of drains and incisions. Exercise is a trickier question because its return is dependent on the extent and type of surgery that has been performed. Often, women can begin to exercise 4 to 6 weeks after surgery.
Q. Do the breasts need to be massaged?
Women often believe that they need to massage their breasts after reconstruction surgery. This can be helpful in some cases to break up deeper scars and minimize the appearance of surface scars. However, massage is not recommended in every situation. If you have expanders or shaped implants, your doctor may advise you not to perform breast massage. Talk to your doctor about this detail based on your procedure.
Q. How long will drains remain?
Drains are commonly used in breast reconstruction to prevent fluid accumulation in the breast pocket. Due to the nuances of breast reconstruction and various influencing factors, the length of drain positioning is different for each patient. Some patients may have drains removed as soon as a few days while others may need to be in place for a week or longer.
Q. How long does it take for the new breast to reach its final shape and size?
Breast tissue heals gradually after reconstruction and the placement of breast implants. At first, breasts may look high on the chest. They may feel quite firm. The final shape and size of the breasts appear slowly over the course of 3 to 6 months depending on the patient’s innate healing process and other factors.
Many physical and emotional changes occur as a result of a breast cancer diagnosis. Talking to your doctor as well as other women who have undergone breast reconstruction can help you gain both clarity and a sense of control over your situation.
Discuss the details of your reconstructive process with an experienced plastic surgeon. Call 323-442-0416 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ketan Patel at Keck Medicine of USC.