Most women suffer from breast lumps at some point of time during their lifetime. Most of the time, these lumps are benign and need no surgery. In case of cancerous or malignant lumps, surgery is the only option available. Thus surgery is often called breast preserving surgery, as it is less invasive than mastectomy, which involves complete removal of breast.
In a lumpectomy, only the lump and the adjoining tissue area is removed surgically so that you retain most of your breast after surgery. Although it is not as invasive and as traumatic as mastectomy, you have to deal with a fair amount of pain and discomfort post surgery. The lumpectomy recovery time is also pretty long, stretching over several weeks.
Recovery and Care
Lumpectomy surgery is mostly performed on an outpatient basis. Before the surgery, your vital signs will be monitored and medications will be given through an IV line. You may be given a general anesthesia or a local one depending upon your individual case. Often, the surgeon marks curved lines on your breast to highlight the incision path.
During the surgery, incisions are made along these lines and the lump is removed along with the surrounding healthy tissue. Oftentimes, lymph nodes are also removed to prevent breast cancer. After removal of the lump, the incisions are closed with self dissolving sutures or surgical staples and the wound is dressed.
Post surgery, you will be moved in a recovery room for further medications. Usually, such patients are not required to stay overnight in a hospital. The nurse will again monitor your vital signs to check if everything is okay. Often, excess fluid tends to accumulate in the region where lump was previously located.
A drain is then placed under the armpits or chest to collect this excess fluid. Drain is placed if you have had your lymph nodes removed. In that case, recovery may take a bit longer than usual. The surgeon may prescribe you medications and guide you upon proper post surgery breast care. Re-excision is done to ensure the cancerous tissues have been cleared.
The effects of anesthesia take about 48 hours to wear off. During this time, you should not drive or sign any important documents or in other words, you should not do any activity that puts your reasoning and judgment to test. The medications prescribed are mostly pain killers that will help you to cope with the surgery pain.
Normally, you won't need to remove stitches if self dissolving sutures were used. Else, the surgeon may remove it upon a visit to his office, after 15 days. Daily dressing of wound may be required, which you will have to do with the help of a friend or family member.
The dressing should be done according to the surgeon's instructions, and proper hygiene measures should be implemented to alleviate the possibility of infection.
During lumpectomy healing time, it is important not to subject your upper body to any kind of strenuous activity. Perform the exercises suggested by the surgeon to overcome the stiffness in shoulder and arms. Wear a sports bra to provide proper support to breast and to prevent damage due to movement.
Avoid the use of aerosols or deodorants as they can irritate the healing tissue. Usually it takes about 2 to 3 weeks to recover completely. However, with the help of proper care and guidance from your surgeon, you can certainly reduce the recovery time.
Lumpectomy recovery is indeed a physically and emotionally exhausting experience for a woman. However, a positive outlook towards life can definitely help you to cope with this difficult phase of life.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.