Breast reconstruction surgery is pointed at restoring the original shape and appearance of the breasts and ensuring perfect symmetry and size following a mastectomy, lumpectomy or congenital deformities.
If you’ve recently had a mastectomy or lumpectomy, or have congenital breast deformities, you may be wondering about the effects of breast reconstruction surgery on your body. This guide shines a light on what to expect as you recover from the procedure.
What Is the Recovery Window After a Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
- If your breast reconstruction surgery entails flap techniques or breast implants, you may need gauze or bandages for your incisions
- You might be advised a support bra to bolster your newly reconstructed breasts and alleviate swelling
- A fine, lightweight tube may be inserted into your skin to filter excess fluid or blood away
- You may be given instructions about medications to be applied or taken, care techniques for the surgical site, and other lifestyle measures to help reduce the risk of infection
- Depending on the type of surgery you undergo, you will most likely be discharged within a few days
- You may go home with one or more drains in place; this help sieve extra fluid from the breasts into a hollow container that you’ll be taught to empty
- Your surgeon will determine when it is safe to remove these drains, from how much fluid is collecting each day
- You will be given advice on what type of clothes you should wear to enable a safe and speedy recovery
- Your breasts will take several weeks to heal, during which time, you might notice your swelling decreasing and your breasts taking on a more contoured appearance. As you recover, you will be asked to come in for regular checkups with your plastic surgeon, to ensure your recovery is on schedule
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What Are the Risks After Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
Any surgery involves risks, although, with proper clinical care in the hands of a seasoned surgeon, you are unlikely to experience major problems after surgery. Some risks of breast reconstruction surgery include:
- Complications from anaesthesia
- Blood clots
- Infection at the surgery site
- Fluid build-up inside the breasts, characterised by pain and swelling
- Delayed healing of the wound
- Asymmetrical breasts
When Will I Be Able to Resume My Normal Routine?
- Count yourself back in the game about 6 to 8 weeks post your surgery. If you have implants without flaps, you may recover even sooner
- While it will take about 8 weeks for your bruising and swelling to recede, it may take up to 1 or 2 years for your tissues to heal and your scars to fade, although these may never disappear completely
- After you’ve healed, you should discuss with your doctor about the most conducive type of bra to wear. Certain types may provide better support to your breasts, while underwires and lace might prove uncomfortable and aggravate your skin
- Ask your surgeon about when you can go back to your normal routine, although as a thumb rule, you should try to avoid heavy lifting, extreme sports and sexual intercourse for at least 6 weeks after your surgery
- If you notice abnormal skin changes, inflammation, lumps, pain or leaking fluid from your breasts, armpits or flap donor site, call your doctor, pronto. This may require immediate investigation and intervention
Recovering from breast reconstruction surgery requires tremendous care and patience. But as they say, a little goes a long way. By putting in the effort now, you can give yourself – and your breasts – a lifetime of beautiful form and function. Take the necessary steps today.
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