If you’ve just recovered from a lumpectomy or mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery, both your body and mind have been through a lot. While your doctor will give you detailed instructions on how to take care of yourself following surgery, there are a few things that I see over and over again that patients neglect to follow, or do not know to expect. Here are three things I find myself telling a lot of my patients following surgery.
- Give Yourself Time to Heal.
While there will be soreness following your breast reconstruction surgery, many patients say the pain they experience isn’t as bad or doesn’t last as long as they expected. Don’t let this lull you into a false sense of security. Regardless of how you feel, follow your doctor’s instructions. Too much or the wrong kind of activity following your breast reconstruction could result in negative side effects such as implant displacement, hematoma or excessive swelling.
Your plastic surgeon will give you guidelines to follow, such as when you can wear either a prosthesis or a bra, lift heavy objects, exercise and return to your normal everyday activity. Most patients need a recovery time of at least six weeks. This time can vary depending on the type of surgery that was performed. Remember: Rushing your healing time won’t do you any good, so take it easy and follow your doctor’s instructions.
- After Your Doctor Clears You For Gentle Exercises, Do Them.
The most important thing to do after breast reconstruction is rest, but there will be a time shortly after surgery when your surgeon clears you for gentle exercises to help regain your range of motion. After you’re cleared to do these gentle exercises, it’s important to do them exactly as your physician has requested. Breast reconstruction surgery can take a while to heal, and the point of these exercises is to gradually help you regain full range of motion in your arms and shoulders after the reconstruction. Certain exercises will also help keep your muscles and scars from getting too stiff or too tight. Even though you may be tired, doing these exercises is important. Listen to your body and do the exercises that you can do comfortably. Avoiding them will only likely lengthen your recovery time.
- Don’t Rush Your Expectations.
You’ve just had a very involved surgery. There will be bruising, swelling, scarring, bandages, sutures and lots of other things involved with completing a complicated medical procedure. Keep that in mind when you initially see your results. Breast shape improves gradually over time after surgery, and it could take a few weeks for the reconstruction to get to the point you expected. It’s important not to get discouraged if your initial impression of your reconstruction is that your breasts appear differently than you expected because the way they look a week after surgery is not the way they will look months after surgery. Do the exercises your plastic surgeon prescribed. Avoid the movements and exercises you are told to avoid. Rest and let your body heal, and make sure that you give your body adequate time to complete the healing process for this transformation. Most importantly, if you have any questions or notice unusual swelling, bruising or bleeding, contact your doctor immediately.
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Dr. Jamal Bullocks is a board-certified Plastic Surgery specialist whose clinical interests include reconstructive breast surgery, cosmetic surgery for men and women and body contouring after weight loss.