A mastectomy is the surgical removal of a breast. Sometimes surgeons must remove both breasts to remove or prevent breast cancer. The surgery used is based on the tumor size, progression, age, and risk factors.
It can be a total mastectomy with skin and some lymph nodes removed, one that avoids removing too much of the skin over the breast, or a radical mastectomy where the entire breast including lymph nodes, chest muscle, and skin. Depending on the surgery, your mom can have a long recovery ahead of her.
Following surgery, your mom will recover in the hospital for a couple of days. Her pain level, blood pressure, pulse, healing rate, and temperature are monitored. She’ll start to work on exercises that help prevent stiffness. Usually, she’s sent home by the third day following the surgery.
What Happens at Home?
At home, your mom will continue to take pain medications. If prescription pain relievers are given, your mom will need someone to help her with medication management. A skilled nurse can help with medications, even if injections or IV medications are needed.
She has a mastectomy bandage that has to be removed when recommended. The surgeon may want her to wait until she returns to the office, but a home health care nurse has the training needed to remove the bandage and determine if things are healing well.
As the incisions are closed, surgical drains are inserted. These need to be emptied. Your mom may be able to drain them herself, but she may find she’s more comfortable having a trained nurse handle all wound care needs, including emptying the surgical drains.
When lymph nodes are part of the surgery, there is a condition where lymph fluid can build up in the soft tissues. If this happens, it’s painful and can lead to infection. It’s important for your mom to know the signs and know what to do. Swelling can be reduced to lower the risk of disease. Home health care nurses and physical therapists can help her learn the right massage and exercise techniques to decrease the risk.
Stitches will be removed in the surgeon’s office. Until then, your mom needs someone to check her healing incisions for signs of infection. She’ll also want to have a physical therapist available to help her with her arm and shoulder exercises as she heals.
Home health care services ensure your mom heals correctly and doesn’t try to overdo it. With skilled nurses available for bandage changes, IV medications, and other aspects of home health care, your mom will be able to rest and heal without worry. Call a home health care agency to get started.