Breast Cancer Surgery (Lumpectomy, Partial Mastectomy, Total Mastectomy)

Post-Operative Instructions

You will most likely be able to go home accompanied by a responsible adult. If you had general anesthesia, you may feel drowsy or nauseated for a temporary period of time that may last 12 to 24 hours.

Incision Care

Some pain, as well as bruising, around the surgical site is expected and anticipated. This should resolve in a few days.

Following complete mastectomy, you will have a gauze dressing, covered by an ace wrap over your incision. This dressing will be removed at your first follow-up appointment which in this instance will be 2-3 days following surgery. Only sponge bathe until after this appointment. Do not submerge your incision.

If you have had a partial mastectomy or lumpectomy, you may remove your dressing after 48 hours and shower. (Avoid baths or hot tubs for at least the first week.) You will likely have small pieces of tape (steri-strips) over your incision or staples. The tapes will naturally fall off over time, do not manually remove them.

You may arrive home with one or two drains. The drain reservoirs need to be measured and emptied each day until your office visit. Please bring the recorded measurements with you to your office visit. More detailed instructions about caring for your drains can be found here.

After initial dressing is removed, you should examine your incision every day. If you should notice a change such as increased tenderness or redness after several days, this should be reported to the nurse at our office.

Keep the arm on the side of the breast surgery elevated on one or two pillows at night or while relaxing; avoid outdoor gardening and activities.


You may resume a regular diet when you return home, however it is recommended that you eat light, easily digestible food for the first day or so after surgery. When tolerated, eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and/or bran flakes and drink plenty of fluids (including some prune juice) to avoid constipation, particularly if you are taking narcotics for post-operative pain control. (You may have a gentle laxative, such as 1-3 tablespoons of Milk of Magnesia if you have not had a bowel movement for three days.)


Please be sure to take all medications that you usually take on a regular basis. However, it would be a good idea to avoid aspirin, Motrin or Advil for five days after your operation, unless prescribed or recommended by your surgeon.

Pain medication will be prescribed for you; you may take it as needed. You should avoid driving, operating heavy equipment, or potentially hazardous garden equipment while taking narcotics. Side effects of narcotics may include nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, rash, irritability, or fatigue. Once pain begins to subside, you may try switching to some plain Tylenol after the first day or two since you may no longer need the narcotic. This will help avoid constipation as well.

You should also take a stool softener if prescribed by your surgeon. You may have a gentle laxative, such as 1-3 tablespoons of Milk of Magnesia if you have not had a bowel movement for three days.


You are to avoid heavy lifting especially on the side on which you have had surgery. Some bruising or black and blue areas around the surgical site are not unusual and will resolve over the next few days.

Many people have problems sleeping after an operation. This is usually the result of too many naps during the daytime. Adequate activity should resolve this problem.

Resumption of driving is dependent on the type of procedure you have had and your level of pain and mobility—generally a few days to up to two weeks after surgery. As always, wait to drive until common sense says it is safe to do so. You must no longer be taking narcotics, and must be able to respond physically and cognitively to any situation on the road you may encounter. If you have had a complete mastectomy, you should wait to drive until released to do so by your surgeon.

Call the Office at (815) 717-8730

  • When you return home from surgery to schedule a follow-up appointment to take place in 2-3 days after surgery if you have had a complete mastectomy, and if you have had a lumpectomy or partial mastectomy, your follow-up appointment should take place 7-10 days after surgery.
  • If you have bleeding from the surgical site that requires more than two dressing changes.
  • You are still unable to have a bowel movement after trying Milk of Magnesia on the third day following surgery.
  • You develop a fever of 101°F or 38.5°C or higher following the day of surgery.
  • If you have any other problems or concerns.

Go to the Emergency Room:

  • If you have been unable to urinate six to eight hours after being discharged from your surgery and have a feeling of fullness, let the tap water run to instigate urination. If you are still unable to urinate, go to the emergency room.
  • If you have serious problems and are unable to reach your surgeon or office staff.