What does Breast Reconstruction Recovery Entail?

Reviewed by Walter Erhardt, MD

Your breast reconstruction recovery may leave you feeling tired and sore. These effects will last a week or two if you have implant-based breast reconstruction and longer if you undergo a reconstructive flap procedure. Medications can help control your discomfort. Most women who undergo breast reconstruction go home from the hospital in one to six days (assuming there are no breast reconstruction complications). You may be discharged with a surgical drain to help remove excess fluids from the site while it heals.

There is no substitute for following your plastic surgeon's specific postoperative instructions. In general, you will be advised to refrain from vigorous activities for six to eight weeks after surgery. Your surgeon may suggest that you wear an elastic bandage or support bra to help minimize swelling. You will also likely be given a prescription for an antibiotic to reduce your risk of developing a post-surgical infection. Take all medications as directed for as long as directed, and adhere to all of your scheduled follow-up visits.

There is also an emotional element to surviving breast cancer and undergoing breast reconstruction. It can take time to get used to the look and feel of your new breasts. For many women, reconstruction helps soften some of the feelings associated with a mastectomy.

You may also feel anxious or sad when you look back at what you have been through and ahead to the possibility of breast cancer recurrence. Breast reconstruction rarely, if ever, hides a return of breast cancer. Discuss an appropriate screening strategy with your oncologist, and stick with it.