Pre- and post-mastectomy care plans

James UVJames UV Member Posts: 1
Hi all,

My 71-year old mother in America has just been diagnosed with her second, independent case of breast cancer.  It luckily appears to be a minor case and is not currently malignant (according to her doctors), but since she underwent lumpectomies and radiation 15 years ago she has decided to undergo a nonreconstructive bilateral mastectomy in early January.  She is otherwise fit and in good health.

I am planning to go back to the USA to help dad care for her, and luckily was already scheduled to be going home for Christmas, so I will be with her for more than a week prior to the surgery.  My work is very flexible, and I have plenty of leave options to be away for a while, but of course managing inter-continental travel is always a challenge.  I will be speaking with Mom soon about what she would like and what her doctor recommends, but I am curious what an average recovery time would be, so that I can start re-arranging my travel plans and notify my work of exactly what I need for leave.  I think at the minimum I would want to be present until the drainage tubes are removed, and possibly a week or so after that.  So, should I (at least for now) plan to be with her for a month or so post-surgery?  I understand that everyone is unique and I will certainly be flexible to what Mom wants, depending on how her surgery and early recover go, but I just want some numbers to plan for.

Thanks for any advice,


  • SoldierCrabSoldierCrab Bathurst NSW Member Posts: 2,378
    hi James I was 52 had bilateral Mastectomy Thursday and went home on Monday if I had not been a rural patient I would of been discharged on the Friday !! 
    my drains took a few weeks to come out 
    Yes we are all different. 
    Do ask your mum her wishes..... if she has chemo and radiation again it might be when she needs extra supports. 
    I couldn't drive for 6 wks. 
  • AfraserAfraser MelbourneMember Posts: 1,551
    Best wishes for your travel and your mother's recovery. I had a single mastectomy at 67. I was home in 4 days, drains out (draining is variable as soldiercrab says and may take longer to come out). You can go home with them of course. My daughter came to stay with me for a week (much less distance) and was surprised I was up and around (and felt fine). Many women note that they have little pain, the worst area appears to be where there are lymph nodes taken or an axillary clearance (although I had the latter and was fine). Movement initially can be a bit restricted so best to exercise as much and as soon as possible (information on exercises will be provided). I found frequently adjusting the post operative soft pad the most fiddly part of the whole thing. Unfortunately after all fluid drained beautifully (and stayed drained) my breast site refilled later and I had an ongong issue with a seroma. Most seromas clear relatively quickly, I eventually found massage was the best solution. Then your mother can decide if she wants a prosthesis or go without (lots of women do so). I am quite large breasted, I wear a prosthesis and find it simple. Good luck and safe travel.
  • ZoffielZoffiel Regional VictoriaMember Posts: 1,935
    edited December 2017

    Hi James,

    If your Mum is in otherwise good health it is very likely that she will be up and around very quickly. 

    Modern surgical practices are good and, as the other ladies have said, it's drains and seroma and the consequences of someone ferretting around in your armpit that cause the most inconvenience.

    From my experience it's the time about 3 weeks after surgery where support is really helpful. Which may be an issue as you don't live there, but might be something to watch for even after you get home.

     This sort of surgery can bring on frantic cleaning/cooking  jags beforehand while we try to get 'ready'.  After about three weeks the spiders are moving back in, the fridge is empty and visitors are starting to trail off. You are sick of yourself and frustrated about being not quite right. But you are well enough to get in the car and visit other people, go shopping and resume normal activities if someone is around to take up the slack when you get tired or want to do too much.

  • onemargieonemargie queenslandMember Posts: 1,130
    Hi there James I had a double aged 43 but 6 months apart. The left side had the tumor in it (8 round of chemo and no rads as I took it off) and I took the other one off as a preventative so no regrets for me still waiting for my recon (will take a couple years yet) but I had lymph nodes left side and no lymph nodes taken right side. Had the drain in for two weeks the first time and 10 days for the right side. Had no issues with the first one only spent one day in hospital for both surgeries(nurses arent very good patients)! Got a seroma in the second one I still believe it was from the drain coming out too soon surgical registrar said it had to come out if left in longer was infection risk so jury’s  out with that one. Had to go back in to hospital for IV antibiotics but just overnight so I think the time frame you speak of will be fine. I was hanging Xmas lights off my gutters nov last year after my right side with my drain in and used my drain bag to hold the cable ties not that I recommend your mum does that but recovery is pretty good and not painful except for the seroma. Safe travels and all the best and biggest hug to you and your mum. Margie 
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