1. Home
  2. Breast Cancer Guide
  3. Postoperative Care
  4. First Aid After Surgery  
Main content

First Aid for Your Arm Following Breast Cancer Surgery

    • Despite all the planning and care you take with your arm following surgery, sometimes you may find yourself with an injury that requires treatment. Be prepared to handle any of these minor emergencies by keeping the following supplies on hand: bandages, antibiotic ointment, antihistamine cream and lotion without dyes or fragrance.

      Cut or scratch to the hand or arm
      1. Apply pressure gently to stop any bleeding.
      2. Wash the cut with tepid water and soap.
      3. Dry the area.
      4. Apply antibiotic ointment to cut.
      5. Cover with a bandage.
      6. Clean, reapply ointment and bandage once a day or more often if wet or soiled. Do not leave a wet bandage on to dry.
      7. Watch for signs of infection at the site and arm: redness, warmth, drainage and/or fever. Contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

      Burn to the hand or arm
      1. Rinse area with tepid water and pat dry.
      2. If burned skin is open, contact your doctor. Otherwise follow the steps below.
      3. Apply an antibiotic ointment to burn.
      4. Apply a non-adherent bandage.
      5. Watch for signs of infection at the burned area and arm: redness, warmth, drainage and/or fever. Contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

      Insect bite to the hand or arm
      1. Wash area and dry.
      2. Do not scratch site. Apply an antihistamine cream, such as Benadryl, to site to decrease itching. A cool compress may also help decrease itching.
      3. Watch for signs of infection at the site and arm: redness, warmth, drainage and/or fever. Contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

      Sunburn to the hand or arm
      1. Bathe in tepid water.
      2. Liberally apply lotion containing aloe vera, with out fragrance or dyes, to arm at least four times a day.
      3. Expect some swelling in the arm, but the swelling should begin to decrease after 48 to 72 hours. When sitting or lying down, try to keep your arm elevated. If it is still swollen as the sunburn improves, contact your doctor.
      4. Wear loose fitting clothing.
      5. Watch for signs of infection: redness, warmth, drainage and/or fever. Contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

      Overuse of the arm
      1. It is okay to use the arm for everyday tasks, but try not to do any heavy lifting or repetitive motions with the arm.
      2. Rest the arm if it is sore or tired.
      3. Try to keep the arm elevated when sitting or lying down.
      4. Contact your doctor if swelling does not improve within 48 hours.

      More on Postoperative Care
      Wound dressing and drain care after surgery
      Activities after surgery
      Postoperative stretches
      Managing lymphedema