Immediately after your operation you will probably feel very well, possibly much better than you had expected, but you may find that intermittently you experience periods when you feel low.
These emotional swings are quite common. Sometimes the reassurance of family and friends is all that is needed. If not you may find it helpful to talk either to your Nurse Specialist or to other people who have been through the same experience.
Your first response to losing a breast may understandably be grief. Just as after bereavement you will need to allow yourself time to mourn the loss. Well-meaning people telling you to ‘cheer up’ or ‘pull yourself together’ may not be helpful. The Nurse Specialist will be a supportive person you can talk to about your feelings at this time. She can also offer you practical help and advice.
Will I need a breast prosthesis?
All women will be offered a breast prosthesis. The ward Nurse will have offered to fit you with a temporary breast prosthesis (known as a ‘comfie’) before you left hospital.
About six weeks after your operation, provided that your wound has healed well, your Nurse Specialist will offer to arrange the fitting of your permanent prosthesis. However if you are undergoing a course of radiotherapy following your surgery it is advisable not to wear a permanent prosthesis during this treatment as it may irritate your skin.
There is a wide range of permanent silicone-filled breast prostheses available free on the NHS. The prosthesis fitter is female and will be able to discuss with you any special requirements that you may have regarding your prosthesis, for example swimming, so take your time and feel free to try on as many as you want to. You may want to take your partner or a friend with you.
It is not necessary to buy new bras unless you want to but it is important that your bra fits you properly. If you do need new bras it is advisable to be properly measured and fitted to ensure you get the right size. A trained fitter can also advise you what style of bra may be appropriate. It is also possible to have pockets fitted into your own bras or swimsuits to hold your prosthesis more securely.
Your prosthesis will usually last two to three years but if you have any problems with it before then please contact your Nurse Specialist or the Appliance Officer at the hospital.
Men can choose to have prosthetic nipples if they wish.
For replacement of your prosthesis after two to three years please contact the Appliance Officer on: tel: 0191 282 4010 during normal office hours.
Every woman who has a mastectomy should be offered the opportunity to discuss breast reconstruction. This would entail further surgery. Some women may be offered reconstruction at the same time as their mastectomy if this is appropriate. Reconstruction can also take place some months or years after the mastectomy and men may also want to consider this.
If you would like to find out more about reconstructive surgery please speak to your GP, Surgeon or Nurse Specialist. Your GP or Surgeon can refer you to a Plastic Surgeon who can tell you exactly what can be achieved and how they would do the operation.
What happens next?
On discharge from hospital you will usually be given an appointment to return to see your Surgeon about two weeks later. At this appointment you should be given the final results of your operation and if any further treatment is recommended this will be discussed then.
You will continue to be seen in the outpatient department at regular intervals. You may also be asked to attend for a mammogram each year for approximately five years. The details of your follow may vary and will be explained to you individually.
What should I look for?
Even though you will be having regular check-ups it is still advisable to be breast aware. This involves looking at and feeling your breasts, scar and both armpits for any changes. By doing this regularly you will know what is normal for you. For further information your GP, District or Practice Nurse or Nurse Specialist can help.