Breast Cancer: Preparing for Surgery

Health Monitor Staff
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By doing the prep work now, you’ll be able to focus on getting better faster after surgery. Here are some things to consider:

A few weeks before

Line up support: You’ll need help when you get home, especially the first week, since you’ll be fatigued and sore. Assemble a rotation of friends and family who can help you bathe, eat, track medication and do your laundry. You also won’t be able to drive for one to two weeks so ask them to take you to doctors’ appointments and pick up any medication.

Buy the right clothing: You won’t be able to lift your arms over your head for a few weeks. To make dressing easier, get tops and jackets that button or zipper in the front. And because you may leave the hospital with drains near the surgery site, you’ll need clothing that’s larger and looser than normal. Opt for elastic waistbands and slippers with slip-proof soles.

Set up your room: After a mastectomy, getting out of bed can be challenging. A foam wedge pillow will make sleeping and relaxing easier. You’ll be able to sit up to read and watch TV and the angle will make it easier to get up out of bed. Also, place a nightstand near your bed to hold items like your medication, phone, computer, books, food and drinks.

Prep your bathroom: Your incision site can’t get wet for a few days. So get sponges, bathing wipes (thick, disposable towels) or baby wipes, and washcloths. Consider purchasing a handheld shower attachment so you can bathe specific areas. And get a bath stool so you can sit down as you bathe yourself. Move toothbrushes, toothpaste and other toiletries to lower shelves, too.

Plan how you’ll keep busy: Sure, you won’t be able to do anything strenuous but you’ll need to pass the time. Stock up on lighthearted books and magazines. Purchase some cards to play with loved ones. DVR or download television shows or movies.  

Ask your surgeon for your instruction sheet: It will tell you anything you need to do the night before surgery such as when to stop eating. You may also have to stop taking certain medication for up to a week before your procedure.
A few days before

Stock your fridge: Fill it with healthy foods including a mix of fruits, vegetables and protein-rich items like almonds, peanuts and cheese. For times when you feel nauseous, have some bland foods on hand like yogurt and hardboiled eggs. Also stock up on with natural laxatives (to fight constipation associated with pain meds) like prunes and dried fruit.

Fill up your medicine cabinet: Keep items like gauze bandages, antibiotic ointment and bandage tape on hand. You’ll also want to have some laxatives to combat constipation, a side effect of many pain-relieving medications.

The day before

Follow your instruction sheet: You will likely need to stop eating eight to 12 hours before surgery.

Prepare for a good night’s rest: For example, take a warm bath, ask your partner for a backrub, watch some light entertainment, put on some soothing music. If you think you may need it, ask your surgeon to prescribe a medication that can help you sleep.

May 2013