Surgical Services

Breast surgery guide

This page has been produced to give you information about breast surgery and aims to answer any questions that you may have.

If you have any further queries then please do not hesitate to discuss these with the medical or nursing staff caring for you.


Why do I need breast surgery?Show [+]Hide [-]

Many common benign (not cancer) breast conditions are treated by an operation.

Your Surgeon may have recommended surgery, or you may have chosen to have an area of breast tissue removed. Some people choose to have benign breast lumps removed for peace of mind or if they are large or causing discomfort.

Can we make your operation easier?

Please let us know before your operation if there are arrangements we can make for you eg providing wheelchair access, interpreters/signers.

You may need a particular time for your appointment:

  • if you need to make arrangements for child care
  • if you care for relatives
  • if you need time off work.

You can discuss these with the medical or nursing staff caring for you or you can contact your Surgeon’s Secretary through the hospital switchboard on tel: 0191 233 6161.

So what happens now?

Your surgeon's secretary will write to you or telephone you with information about your hospital admission and you may be invited to come for a pre-admission visit. This visit gives the doctor or nurse time to examine you and to arrange any further tests that may be necessary.

These may include blood tests, a chest X-ray, and possible a tracing of your heart (cardiograph). None of these are painful and they are all routine before operations. This will take 2-3 hours.

You will probably need a general anaesthetic for your operation and your doctor will tell you how long you will be staying in hospital. As with all general anaesthetics you will not be able to eat or drink anything for a few hours before your surgery. You will be advised about this at your pre-admission visit.

These types of operations are generally carried out as a day case, although occasionally your doctor may prefer to admit you to hospital for a few days.

What happens when I am admitted to hospital?Show [+]Hide [-]

The Anaesthetist will visit you before the operation and your surgeon may also see you. Please ask them any questions at this point, it is important you understand what is going to happen.

The Surgeon will mark the breast to be operated then take care, not to wash these marks off before your operation.

Shortly before your operation you will be asked to undress and put on a cotton operation gown. You will need to remove contact lenses and all jewellery except your wedding ring. You will then be taken to the theatre where you will be given an injection to send you to sleep before the operation. You will be asked to remove any dentures just before you are given your anaesthetic.

What can I expect when I wake up after the anaesthetic?

When you first wake up you will be in bed in the theatre recovery area and then you will soon be brought back to the ward.

You may feel a little tired and uncomfortable. You will have a wound on your breast, which will be covered by a dressing. You will have stitches and possibly a wound drain. This is used to remove old blood and other fluids and can help to reduce bruising and swelling around your wound.

You will probably want to freshen up before going home so bring toiletries, towel etc.

You will need to arrange for someone to collect you to take you home by car or taxi. If this is not possible then please inform the staff on the ward when you come for your pre-admission visit. They may be able to arrange an ambulance to take you home after your operation.

When will the wound drain, dressing and stitches be removed?

If you feel comfortable after a couple of days a dressing is not necessary. Your wound may look bruised at first but should fade to a neat 'line' within a few months. When you touch your wound it is quite common for it to feel uneven at first.

If you have a wound drain it is usually removed 1-2 days after your operation. Your stitches may be dissolvable, in which case, they do not have to be removed. Sometimes the ends of the stitch need trimming off.

If they do need to be removed/trimmed, the district or practice nurse will do it, about 10-14 days after your operation. The ward staff will make these arrangements for you, and give you this information before you leave hospital.

How do I care for my wound?Show [+]Hide [-]

You can bath or shower as usual, the wound can be submerged in water as soon as the dressing or drain is removed, remembering to gently pat the scar dry with a clean towel.

You should avoid scented soaps, sprays, bubble baths, or deodorants on or near the wound for about two weeks as these may cause stinging.

If you notice any redness, swelling or if you develop a discharge from your wound please contact your GP, or the ward on which you were treated for advice. Wound infections do not happen often, but when they do, a course of antibiotics is usually all that is required.

Am I likely to have any pain after my operation?

You may find that you have some pain and discomfort following your operation. Please don't hesitate to ask for painkillers when you are in hospital. You could take simple painkillers such as paracetamol to relieve any pain when you get home. You may want to take them regularly for the first couple of days.

Women may find that wearing a comfortable bra in bed can sometimes give extra support.

What about diet?

A well balanced diet will help wound healing.

What about getting back to normal?

There should be no reason why you should not get back to normal life quite quickly after this operation. You can resume things like sport, lifting, driving, sexual activity and housework as soon as you feel comfortable to do so. This may vary from one person to another.

You will usually need to allow yourself a few days before returning to work.

Do I need to come back to hospital?

When you are discharged from hospital, you will probably be given an appointment to return to the outpatients department. You may like to bring a friend or relative with you to this appointment. At this appointment the doctor will check your wound and give you the final results of your operation. If any further treatment is recommended then it will be discussed then. Most people will not need any further treatment and will be discharged from the clinic.

Although you may not be having a regular check-up it is still advisable to be breast aware. This involves looking at and feeling your breasts, scar and both armpits for any change. By doing this regularly you will know what is normal for you.

More information

For further information your GP, District or Practice Nurse can help.

To discuss any aspect further please contact your GP or your Surgeon's Secretary.

If you have questions after your operation, you can contact the nurses on the ward where you were treated.

Leaflet to download

You can also download the information on this page as a PDF leaflet.pdf

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