There is a lot to prepare for when it comes to a double mastectomy. Recovery is a long process and requires intensive care in and out of the hospital.
The recovery time from a double mastectomy can vary from person to person, but it typically takes 4 to 6 weeks.
Some surgeries involve removing the breast tissue but saving the nipple, while others remove the whole breast. More radical mastectomies also remove chest muscle and, rarely, the lymph nodes.
Many women also undergo breast reconstruction, which can add additional time and complexity to their recovery.
In this article, we provide information and tips on recovering from a double mastectomy.
How to prepare
A doctor will help a person prepare for a double mastectomy by:
- explaining the procedure in detail
- answering questions
- taking a medical history
- performing a physical examination
- doing blood tests or other tests if necessary
The doctor may also instruct the individual to avoid eating or drinking for a certain amount of time before the surgery. Anyone taking aspirin or other blood-thinning medications may need to stop taking them for several days or weeks before the procedure.
Other preparations to consider include:
- Packing: A mastectomy typically involves staying for a maximum of 3 nights in the hospital. In preparation for the surgery, the individual will need to pack a hospital bag for this stay. It is best to include loose-fitting tops, cardigans, and zip-up hoodies as these clothes allow room for the drainage tubes following surgery.
- Buying bras: Some women who are not having reconstruction surgery may wish to wear prosthetics. However, it is a good idea to wait for a few weeks after surgery before buying mastectomy bras, as the chest size will change as the swelling goes down. After the surgery, the doctor may prescribe specific bras, as medical insurance may cover these prescription items.
- Preparing the home: It can be helpful to cook and freeze meals in advance of the surgery and ask friends or family to help with cooking and cleaning. Placing books, bottles of water, and other important items within easy reach of the bed or sofa can also help.
- Driving home: It is essential to arrange a ride home because driving after being under anesthesia is dangerous. The seatbelt may hurt the newly sensitive chest area, so bring a small pillow to place between the chest and belt.
- Seeking support: Knowing where to get post-surgery support can help some people stay calm before the procedure. Make a list of helpful organizations and contacts, including cleaning services, taxi companies, and pet sitters. The American Cancer Society offer a range of support programs throughout the United States.
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