The success of breast reconstruction surgery depends equally on the surgery itself and the post mastectomy reconstruction surgery period. Basically what this means is that how you take care of yourself after the surgery will greatly determine the final outcome of the breast reconstruction surgery.
Learning about how to take care of yourself and what to expect after the surgery will help you take better care of yourself.
After Post Mastectomy Reconstruction Process
One of the most important things to understand about the post-operative period is that the experience will vary from one individual to another. Moreover, the healing process and time also vary according to the type of reconstruction surgery that one has had. For example, women who have had breast reconstruction using breast implant heal faster than women who have had tissue flap breast reconstruction surgery.
Immediately After Surgery
When you regain consciousness after the surgery, you are likely to feel sleepy, tired, and confused. This is all due to the anesthesia that was administered during the surgery.
You will also feel pain when you wake up after the surgery. If you had tissue flap breast reconstruction surgery, you will feel pain in your chest area and the donor site (lower abdomen, upper back, buttocks, or inner thighs). The doctor will prescribe you pain killers to relieve your pain. A surgical support bra will be wrapped around your chest area. This bra will limit the mobility of your arms and your breast area will feel tight.
Compression Wrappers and Drain Tubes
When you regain consciousness, you will find that there are compression wrappers on your legs and drain tubes attached to your breasts. The compression wrappers help ensure proper circulation in your body.
Photo Credit: https://www.mylifestages.org/health/breast/wound_care_after_breast_cancer_surgery.page
The purpose of the drain tubes is to drain out any liquid that might accumulate in the newly reconstructed breasts. The drain tube is attached to a ball shaped hollow instrument. Before you leave the hospital, the doctor will teach you how to empty it.
Moving to the Hospital Room
Your stay in the hospital will depend on the type of breast reconstruction surgery that you have. In most cases, post breast reconstruction hospital stay is for seven or more days.
Once you are shifted to your hospital room, you will be able to get out of bed with the help of assistance. If you have a catheter attached to your bladder, you will not be allowed to go to the bathroom by yourself. In two or three days, when you start to feel more comfortable and are able to move somewhat, the catheter will be removed.
If you had a free flap breast reconstruction surgery, the nurses will be checking on you quite often to ensure that there is proper flow of blood to the newly reconstructed breast.
During your stay in the hospital room, your recovery will be closely monitored by doctors and nurses. During this time, you will be taught how to handle the drains, how to take care of your wounds, how you should move around, what physical activities to avoid, how to take a shower once you are home, and what signs require immediate doctor’s attention.
Moving to Home
The next phase of your post mastectomy reconstruction surgery will take place in your home. During the first week, you will feel very tired and sore. You will be required to continue with your pain medication and antibiotics. However, remember that the sooner you get off the pain medication the better it is for the post reconstruction healing process.
You will have the drains still attached to your breasts. You will be required to make a weekly visit to your doctor to ensure that the drains are working properly. The drains will be removed in due time; however, you should not rush the process.
During the first week, you might not have the strength to take a shower. When you do feel like you can take a shower, make sure that you have someone to help you. Make sure that your drain tubes are properly tied up, before you take a shower. You might want to use a shower bench, so that you can sit down while taking a shower.
What Activities to Avoid
You can resume light activities, but only if you feel you can do so. However, do not do any housework that requires vigorous hand movements and lot of strength. In other words, you should avoid vacuuming, lifting heavy objects, taking laundry out of the washing machine, and any other activity that requires heavy manual labor.
Many women want to know when they can start wearing a bra after breast reconstruction. Well, this depends on the type of the type of reconstruction you have had.
Moreover, some surgeons are advice against wearing a bra right after breast reconstruction, while others allow their patients to do so. The basic rule is that if you are allowed to wear a bra, make sure that it is a soft bra. Under no circumstances should you wear a bra with underwire.
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In order to help your arms get back their normal movement, the doctor will recommend you some stretching exercises.
These exercises will be very light stretching exercises and if you follow doctor’s advice properly, you will be able to see vast improvement in mobility of your arms and overall body.
Taking Care of Your Wound
If you have a tissue flap breast reconstruction, there will be two wound sites- one will be your chest area and the other will be the donor site. You need to take proper care of your wounds to ensure that they do not get infected. It usually takes around six to eight weeks for the wounds to heal completely.
You will need to massage your breast skin to ensure that it stays supple. You will also need to massage the scars to ensure that they do not stick to the breast tissue beneath them and that they heal faster. In the beginning the scars will be firm, red in color, and slightly elevated. With proper care, the scars will fade away, but not completely.
If your hand and arm movement allow you to use the handbrake and gears comfortably, you can resume driving activity. However, make sure that you get the green signal from your doctor and car insurance company.
Resuming Sexual Activity
You need to take your own time as far as resuming sexual activity is concerned. Some women need more time than others. Talk to your partner to ease the process. You might also want to talk to a counselor, if you are finding it hard to resume sexual activity.
Keep a Positive Outlook
You have to keep a positive outlook during your post mastectomy reconstruction period. The success of the healing process depends on how you take care of yourself. Therefore, learn as much as you can about the post mastectomy reconstruction healing process.
Photo Credit: http://www.viachristiclinic.com/Breastcare/Services/Breast_Cancer_Treatment/Mastectomy/