what to expect during recovery from breast cancer treatment

During breast cancer treatment, it can be overwhelming to absorb all of your doctor’s follow-up guidelines. You will likely be balancing multiple treatment options that bring their own care instructions. Not only will you be managing a number of treatments and follow-up care, you’ll also be dealing with the emotional and physical aspects of recovery taking their toll on you. With so much on your mind, it can be difficult to keep track of everything that is going on.

Your experience with treatment will be unique and based on your diagnosis, treatment options, and treatment order. It may be helpful to take notes or bring a friend or family member along to your appointments to help you remember your doctor’s recommendations.

What to Expect During Recovery

Breast cancer surgery

Recovering from surgery varies by your diagnosis and the type of breast cancer surgery. Your doctor will show you how to care for yourself after surgery and prescribe pain medications, if needed.

A lumpectomy is an outpatient procedure, and you will be able to go home the same day. If you have a mastectomy, you will likely have to remain in the hospital for a few days.

After breast cancer surgery, you will likely have a drainage device in place that you will need to empty. You will also need to change your bandages daily.

Keeping the incision area and bandages clean are important to preventing infection after surgery. Be sure to contact your doctor if you have any questions about how to care for the incision area.

Doing some light stretching exercises after surgery will help you regain mobility and range of motion.

Breast cancer chemotherapy

Chemotherapy recovery comes down to working treatment into your schedule and managing side effects. Depending on what side effects you experience and the severity, you may need to take time off work during treatment to rest and recover.

Some chemo side effects can continue for months or even years after chemotherapy is complete, so work with your doctor to develop a care plan that helps you manage these after-effects. Exercising, such as light walking, yoga, or meditation, may also help you recover quicker and overcome some side effects of chemotherapy.

Breast cancer radiation therapy

Radiation therapy usually lasts for a few months, but the frequency and duration of treatment varies based on your situation. During radiation, you will likely be able to keep up most of your normal activities and routine.

You may feel tired in the weeks during treatment and after. Keeping up good habits for diet and sleep will help aid your recovery.

The skin around the area where you receive radiation can become irritated. You’ll want to be sure you take care of the skin where radiation was administered. Use mild lotion for dry skin and avoid direct sun exposure until the skin has healed.

Managing Depression and Anxiety

A breast cancer diagnosis brings about a lot of fear and anxiety in most patients. While your body undergoes difficult treatment, you may find yourself physically and emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed from your follow-up plans and discharge instructions.

If you find yourself feeling sad, anxious, or in fear often, contact a counselor or find a breast cancer support group. Talking about your experience with others may help you gain more understanding of your experience and learn strategies to cope with the changes breast cancer has brought to your life.