Taking Care of Your Incision After Breast Surgery

After breast cancer surgery, you will have a bandage, also called a dressing, over the place where you had surgery. You may also have tubes in your chest to remove blood and fluids that build up during the healing process. This means you may have to empty and measure the fluid, and learn to identify any problems you may need to tell your doctor or nurse about.

The drain stays in place for about two weeks or until only a small amount of fluid is draining from the incision. Your doctor or nurse will give you written instructions on how to care for your incision, change your bandage, and drain and check the fluid. You’ll also be told when to call your doctor or nurse about a problem. You should study the instructions and share them with your caregiver, if you have one. Be sure you know how to get in touch with your doctor after hours and on weekends, too. 

Your doctor will tell you when to return to check the incision and, if necessary, to remove stitches. You may be told to start postmastectomy exercises the day after your operation or at a later time. These exercises may include doing things like flexing your fingers and touching your hand to your shoulder. Ask if there are any exercises or activities you should avoid to prevent swelling.