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Preparing for Breast Cancer Surgery

Breast Surgery Plan

Your doctor and the staff caring for you may alter this plan to meet your specific needs regarding your diagnosis and breast surgery.

Pre-Admission Testing

Diagnostic Tests:

  • You may have blood drawn and other medical testing if your physician determines the need.
  • You and your doctor will review the list of current medications you are taking. This includes vitamins and herbal supplements.


  • Follow your normal diet
  • On the day of surgery, do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before. This includes gum and cough drops and you cannot smoke.

Education (what to expect on the day of your surgery):

  • You may have an IV and possibly a drain
  • You will have an incision on your breast (the extent and details of this incision will be explained to you prior to the procedure)
  • There may be swelling and bruising at the incision site
  • You may experience some pain with arm movement after surgery
  • Numbness, tingling, phantom breast sensation may occur after surgery. These sensations are normal after this type of procedure


  • Make your life easier and safer after surgery by planning and arranging the reduction of household activities prior to surgery.
  • Arrange for assistance for household chores and meal preparation when you first get home.
  • Arrange for transportation to and from the hospital as well as to your physician's office for your after surgery check-up.

Following Breast Surgery

  • Diet: You may follow your normal diet as long as you are not experiencing any nausea
  • Medications and IV's: Pain medication will be given to you as needed
  • Special Consults: If you have a mastectomy or a surgery involving your lymph nodes, a Reach To Recovery referral will be initiated
  • Activity: You will practice your arm and shoulder exercises with the nurse or physical therapist
  • Education: You will learn to empty your drain if you have one.

Post-Op Day One

  • You will learn the signs and symptoms that may indicate wound infection. You will practice emptying your drain if you have one. You will receive information regarding:
    • Activity instruction
    • Incision care
  • You will also be instructed on breast self-exam techniques.

Day of Discharge

  • You will be given information about a cancer support group
  • You will be given the 800.4.CANCER (Cancer Information Service) phone number
  • If you had a mastectomy:
    • You will learn about stores near your home where you can purchase post-mastectomy products
    • You will be provided with a temporary prosthesis

It is very important to keep your follow-up medical appointments.

Questions to ask your physician before surgery

  • Which type of surgery do you recommend for me? Why?
  • Where will the incision be located and how much of the breast tissue will be removed?
  • Will any lymph nodes be removed?
  • Will I be able to have breast reconstruction if I have a mastectomy?
  • Do you recommend breast reconstruction at the same time of the mastectomy surgery or at a later date?
  • Will additional treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy be required following surgery?
  • What type of follow-up care is needed?
  • How long will it be before I resume my normal activities?