Breast Surgery - An Introduction



There are many different procedures available depending on your particular goals - whether conserving a breast from cancer or disease, breast reconstruction, or augmentation.


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Recovery Time



Everyone recovers from an operation at different rates. Whilst the majority of women feel essentially back to normal after a couple of weeks, four to six weeks should ideally elapse before returning to work particularly if axillary surgery is included. Resuming too quickly potentially delays the ultimate recovery of full fitness. Gentle exercise during convalescence is encouraged and as long as it does not hurt you will not do any damage.

Post Operative Care



When you leave the hospital, you will have a dressing over the wound. Whilst this should not be immersed in the bath it is designed to be shower proof. On your return to clinic the remaining dressings will be removed and the scar covered with Micropore® tape.

This tape should be worn for four to six weeks and changed twice weekly. This ensures the edges of the scar knit well and the scar remains flat. The tape does not have to be changed once wet as it will dry on the skin. Any sutures will be placed under the skin where they will dissolve without needing removal.You may be able to feel the stitches beneath the skin and occasionally these may extrude through the scar. If uncomfortable, the knot can easily be removed by your practice or breast care nurse.

Scars take three months to reach their full strength and during this period they may become itchy, firm, red and a little raised. They then gradually mature to a fine white line over nine to twenty four months, although this is variable according to individual skin types. After 6 weeks when the wound has healed soundly you may massage the scar with moisturising cream or oil twice daily for two to three months. It is not essential to use Vitamin E cream or oil.

Following the procedure there should be a daily improvement in the level of comfort. If this does not happen please contact your GP or breast care nurse.

Complications



As with all surgery there are general complications inherent from having any surgical procedure & anaesthetic as well as specific complications from the type of procedure itself. General complications include postoperative nausea & vomiting, chest infection, wound infection, bleeding requiring a return to theatre, deep vein thrombosis (clot in the leg veins) and prolonged surgical site discomfort. Specific complications include marginal necrosis (delayed wound healing), seroma formation (fluid build up under the wound), and those complications related to axillary surgery (stiff shoulder, lymphoedema and altered skin sensation). All proven precautions are taken to minimize risk but the causes are multifactorial, and some, such as innate biological tissue variability ( the way you heal) cannot be altered.

As with any surgery smokers should be advised that nicotine can delay healing resulting in conspicuous scars and prolonged recovery. Less than 5% of women will develop a significant post-operative complication. Prompt treatment of any complication reduces the chance of long-term problems.