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Activities After Breast Cancer Surgery

    • The time it takes to return to normal activities after surgery depends on the type of surgery performed. In general, lumpectomies require the least amount of recovery time, while a mastectomy with a tissue flap reconstruction takes the longest. Always check with your breast and reconstructive surgeons to determine when it is safe for you to resume specific activities.

    • General guidelines

      • When you first return home, you will be able to do much of your own personal care, such as bathing, dressing, preparing simple foods, etc.

      • You may find that you need to take rest breaks between activities, but you should not need to stay in bed for prolonged periods during the day.

      • A short walk each day will help your recovery.

      • You can resume light household and work activities such as simple meal preparation, folding laundry, using your computer and completing paperwork as you feel ready.

      • Avoid activities that require moderate to heavy lifting (grocery shopping) or pushing/pulling (vacuuming) and repetitive motions (such as washing windows or long hours at the computer).

      • A good rule during this time is to listen to your body, do what is comfortable, and stop and rest when you feel tired.

    • Driving

    • If you had a lumpectomy or a simple mastectomy without lymph nodes removed, you may be able to resume driving within a few days. If you had lymph nodes removed and/or reconstructive surgery, you may need to wait several days or weeks before you feel comfortable driving. You should not be driving as long as you are on pain medications. A pillow or seat belt positioning device may help cushion or adjust the seat belt to a more comfortable position when you drive.

    • Exercising

    • You will gradually be able to resume all of your pre-surgery activities over the course of the first several weeks and months after your surgery. Again, the best rule is to listen to your body, do what is comfortable, and stop and rest when you feel tired or sore. If you participated in vigorous sports before your surgery, check with your doctor to determine when it is safe to return to these activities.

    • Returning to work

    • Most women are ready to return to work within several weeks after their surgery. Again, this time frame depends upon the extent of the surgery and the type of work a woman does. Some women may choose not to return to work while they undergo adjuvant (additional) treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Another option may be to return to work part-time, gradually adding additional hours as you feel ready. Your doctor will help you determine what is best for you.

      More on Postoperative Care
      Wound dressing and drain care after surgery
      Postoperative stretches
      First aid for your arm following surgery
      Managing lymphedema