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Precautions: Post-Breast Cancer Care

Following are certain questions that may be in your mind if you have just gone through breast cancer surgery.

1)What can I do to take care of my wounds?

Make sure the wound is clean. If the wound is not infected, you don’t need to treat it. If the wound is healthy, you only need to apply an antiseptic cream once per day (Betadiene soap). The drain site dressing must be changed every 4-5 days.

2) When is the best time to take a shower?

After stitch removal, you can take a complete body bath. After 2 weeks. You can sponge the upper body for 2 weeks and then dry yourself. With assistance, you can wash your hair.

3) How do you dress your wound?

The dressing should be removed the day after surgery and left open. The wound is usually closed with staples. You are asked to apply Betadine lotion to the wound and to wear clean cotton clothing.

4) What should I do about the drain? How often do I need to clean it?

You can carry the drain in the bag we give you in our post-operative kit. The bag will be used to drain the drain once per day for a set time. You can also use the measuring cylinder included in the kit to measure the drain. You can ask the specialist nurse for help and refer to the ‘Drain Care Leaflet’. It doesn’t matter if you empty the drain box each time.

5) Can you wash my hair?

With assistance, yes. Your attendant will shampoo the bed for you.

6) What can I do to relieve the pain in my arm, and the sensation of stretching at the operation site?

It is common to feel numbness or tingling after axillary surgery, especially axillary dissection. Sentinel lymph node biopsy is less likely to cause this. Sometimes, you may feel touch as pain. This happens because the nerve that runs from your armpit to the arm is cut or stretched during surgery. These abnormal sensations diminish with time, and they definitely get better when you exercise. They might not disappear completely.

7) Can I lie down on the sidelines of surgery?

Yes, as long as you don’t place your weight on the drain tubes or rest your head on an arm.

8) Can I do a few chores at home?

You can do many household chores that aren’t exhausting. This could include dusting, cleaning, and supervising the kitchen. In 2-3 weeks, you can gradually increase the scale of your work until it is normal.

9) When am I allowed to drive?

After the drain is gone and you’re free to move, you can drive your car.

10) What should you eat?

It is important to eat healthy, nutritious food together with your family at the dinner table. They can have everything. Cancer is not contagious. A dietician can help you with a diet plan if you have diabetes or obesity.

11) How often should I exercise?

Start exercising as soon as possible after surgery. You should do this more often to get the most out of it. Every hour, for 3-5 minutes. Once you have established your full range of movement, you can reduce the frequency to about 4-5 times per day.

12) How can I find out more about treatment?

Your histopathology report, which is available after 7-8 days of operation, will determine the next steps in breast cancer treatment.

13) What problems am I likely to encounter and how can I address them?

You may feel pain or swelling at the site of the procedure, or you might get fever. There could also be leakage from the drain side or a malfunctioning drainage system. These issues should be addressed immediately. For advice, you can either call our helpline (or your doctor).

14) When do I need to see the doctor?

You will usually be called back by your surgeon within 5-7 days of surgery to examine the wounds and drains. Once the drain has drained for 30-40ml, it will be removed. This can take anywhere from 10 days to two weeks. After surgery, the stitches/staples are removed two weeks later.

15) When does my chemotherapy start? Is it difficult? Do I need to be admitted?

The third week following surgery is when chemotherapy begins. Before chemotherapy can be started, the wound must have healed completely. It is best to start chemotherapy within 3-6 weeks of surgery.

16) What are the possible side effects of chemotherapy treatment?

All cells that are rapidly growing in cancer cells will be targeted by chemotherapy. Cancer cells are fast dividing but so are the cells in the intestine, hair follicles, and bone marrow. It is also why chemotherapy can make you feel nauseated, cause hair loss and increase your vulnerability to infection. This all contributes to fatigue.

These side effects usually last for about one week, then recovery starts. There are many effective medications that can be used to treat side effects of chemotherapy. They will be explained to you by your medical oncologist.

17) What is radiation therapy? When will it occur? What frequency do I need to visit for radiation treatment and how long is it effective?

Radiation therapy refers to high-beam X-rays that are used to treat breast cancer. After chemotherapy is over, radiation almost always follows. Conventional treatment takes 5-7 weeks, while newer techniques can deliver radiation in as little as 3 weeks for patients who are suitable. The details of your treatment will be discussed with you by your radiation oncologist.

18) How can I tell if I’m healthy? What is my follow-up protocol? Who should I meet to follow up?

After you are done with treatment, you’ll be called back to continue your follow-up. For the first two years you will be evaluated for symptoms. Then, every three months for the next three years, then six times a year for the next three years. Finally, once the treatment is complete, you will be called back for follow up. A mammogram and an ultrasound abdomen may be performed six times a month.

An MR mammogram can be done up to a year after breast surgery. An MR mammogram may be performed one year after breast conservation surgery.

Make an appointment to see a breast cancer doctor.