Here are some facts about breast cancer:
- 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer sometime during their life.
- Approximately 250,000 women will be treated for breast cancer each year.
- Today, it is estimated that there are 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. alone.
- Breast cancer does not discriminate against age, race or lifestyle choices.
- If you are a woman, you are at risk for breast cancer.
Let us begin by saying that we did not list these statistics to scare you! That is definitely not our intention! Our goal is to inform our patients, and those of you who take a moment out of your day to read our blogs, about important facts that may affect you in the future. Or, it could be affecting you now.
Receiving the news that you have breast cancer is life changing. Whether you need a partial mastectomy or you lose one or both breasts, the way you look and feel about yourself will be altered, even if it is only for a short time. Your next steps after a mastectomy are completely up to you. You may choose a prosthetic breast/bra to wear under your clothing, or you may want to reconstruct your breast for a more natural look. A breast reconstruction can be performed at the same time as your mastectomy or later on when your body has had time to heal after radiation or chemotherapy.
Either way, recovering from a breast reconstruction is a physical and emotional journey. You will need support from the people you love, and more importantly, an abundance of time for rest and relaxation. To help you during the recovery process, we have assembled a list of recommendations that have been proven to greatly improve your healing, and your overall health, in the weeks after your breast reconstruction surgery.
Follow your doctor’s orders FAITHFULLY!
Have you ever gotten a prescription for an antibiotic and your doctor (and the nurse, and the pharmacist, and your mother) repeatedly advised you to be sure to take all of the medication, even if you started to feel better? The reason doctors stress this seemingly minor detail is because they know that if you fail to take your entire dosage, the condition you are being treated for may not fully be cured and you can suffer a relapse. This same principle applies to the instructions that your surgeon will give you after your reconstruction.
Most likely, you will begin your post-op recovery totally dedicated to the list of instructions that you were given before you came home. You will check the list before you do anything (and I mean, ANYTHING) to make sure it will not cause you pain or discomfort. During the first couple of weeks, you will probably make dozens of phone calls to the surgeon’s office to ask questions and voice your concerns. But, what happens after that initial two or three weeks, when you begin to feel better, the pain has lessened and you’re tired of being a couch potato?
This is when we begin to become lax in our commitment to follow the doctor’s orders. We become risk takers, rule breakers and danger seekers! Ok, maybe not that last one, but you know where we are going with this! Normally, it takes a good six weeks of recovery time before you can begin to get back to normal. Bottom line: If you try to rush it after you begin to feel better and stronger, you may set yourself up for a setback that can extend the length of your recuperation even more.
We know it is hard, but BE PATIENT!
Staying away from our normal activities for six weeks can seem like an impossible task. As women, we have demands that do not go away just because we want (or need) them to. Whether you have kids, a job or just household duties, you feel responsible for making sure things get done. While it may seem like a waste of time to take naps or to put your feet up and rest, it isn’t. Your body needs a lot of rest to heal. Let your friends and family help you as much as possible. Overlook the fact that your mother-in-law folds the towels differently than you do! You will be able to get your house back in order soon enough, but not until you are stronger and have permission from your doctor!
DO NOT Neglect Your Mental Health!
As stated before, breast cancer and breast reconstruction are life-changing experiences. It is normal to feel different. You will most likely go through phases of grief like anger, sadness and hopefully, acceptance. Some women may experience a prolonged phase of sadness that can eventually turn into depression and/or anxiety. These are not conditions that are just going to go away on their own. If you feel like you just can’t get to the acceptance phase, or you begin to have panic attacks or thoughts of suicide, you need to contact your surgeon immediately and possibly see a mental health professional. This is NOT something to be ashamed of! Many women find themselves in this situation and seeking help is the only solution.
If you need more information about breast reconstruction, please contact our office today.