After a mastectomy, the patient should perform gentle exercises to prevent arm or shoulder stiffness and to reduce scar tissue formation, take pain medicine, and ask for clear guidance on how to care for the bandages or drains, suggests BreastCancer.org. The patient should also learn how to recognize signs of infection or lymphedema.
For the first few weeks following surgery, the patient should rest and have family or friends help out with tasks like laundry, shopping, meal preparation and child care. The patient should take only sponge baths until any drains, staples or sutures are removed and her doctor confirms that showering and bathing are safe, advises BreastCancer.org. The patient should also wait to receive clearance from her doctor before resuming use of a bra or wearing a prosthesis, because these can affect healing.
Continuing gentle arm exercises for several months after surgery helps prevent stiffness and maintains flexibility in the arm, according to BreastCancer.org. Some patients experience "phantom pain" in the form of itching, touch sensitivity or pressure, and the use of over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, is usually sufficient to address this. If they do not provide adequate relief, a doctor may prescribe stronger pain medication.