Discharge Instructions for Mastectomy or Breast Lumpectomy

You are being treated for breast cancer or precancer. The cancer or precancer tissue was removed with surgery. This may have been done with a lumpectomy. Or it may have been done with a total mastectomy. A lumpectomy means that the tumor and a margin or edge of tissue around it were removed. Lymph nodes in your armpit may also have been removed. A mastectomy means that all of the breast tissue and maybe nearby lymph nodes have been removed.


  • Be sure you understand what you can and can't do as you recover from surgery.

  • Ask for help with chores and errands while you recover.

  • Don't lift anything heavy until your healthcare provider says it's OK.

  • Don't vacuum or do active or strenuous housework until your healthcare provider says it's OK.

  • Do the range-of-motion exercises that you learned in the hospital. 

Home care

Here are suggestions for taking care of yourself at home:

  • Take pain medicine as directed.

  • Keep your cuts (incisions) clean and dry.

  • Check your incisions daily for signs of infection. These include redness, swelling, and drainage. They also include the edges of an incision opening up.

  • Follow your healthcare provider's instructions about bathing or showering.

  • If your healthcare provider says it's OK, wash your incisions gently. Use mild soap and warm water. Pat dry.

  • Don't soak in a tub, hot tub, or pool until your healthcare provider says it's OK. 

  • Take your temperature each day for 7 days after the surgery.

  • Eat normal meals as soon as you feel able. Stick to a healthy, well-balanced diet.


Make a follow-up appointment as directed by your healthcare provider. If you had a mastectomy, you may have choices for reconstructive breast surgery or a prosthesis. Ask to talk with someone who can tell you more about your choices.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Chills

  • Drainage from your incisions

  • Swelling around your incisions

  • Increasing pain in or around your incisions

  • Swelling in your arm or hand on the surgery side

  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing

Know what problems to watch for and when you need to call your healthcare providers. Also know what numbers to call after office hours and on weekends and holidays.