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Mastectomy 101

Questions To Ask Before Going Home After A Mastectomy

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The following questions are based on the American Cancer Society offsite link recommendations of questions to ask before leaving the hospital after a mastectomy*:

How To Take Care Of Your Body

  • How to take care of the wound and bandage
  • How to take monitor drainage and take care of the drains
  • How to know if you have an infection
  • What medicines to take (including pain medicines) and how often
  • When to call your doctor or nurse (and how)
  • Any restrictions on activities
  • What to expect regarding sensations in the breast and arm
  • What to expect regarding feelings about body image
  • What can I do to avoid getting lymphedema

How To Get Back Into Your Life

  • What to eat and what not to eat
  • What activities you should or should not do
  • How soon you can return to work
    • Should the return be part time? If so, for how long?
    • Is there anything at work that I should not do? If so, for how long?
    • Will I need a change in my job (an "accommodation") to help me do my work? If so, for how long?

How To Get Used To Your Body After Surgery

  • When to start using your arm
  • How to exercise your arm to keep it from getting stiff
  • When you can wear a breast form (padding shaped like a breast that can be worn under the clothing)
  • What to do about feelings you may have about how you look  
  • How to get in touch with an American Cancer Society Reach to Recovery volunteer. Reach to Recovery is a program in which breast cancer patients can talk by phone or face-to-face with breast cancer survivors.

  *Breast Cancer Clear & Simple, Atlanta, American Cancer Society, 2008; A Breast Cancer Journey, Atlanta, American Cancer Society, 2001.

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