Discharge Instructions for Mastectomy or Breast Lumpectomy

Discharge Instructions for Mastectomy or Breast Lumpectomy

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Discharge Instructions for Mastectomy or Breast Lumpectomy

You are being treated for breast cancer or precancer. The cancer or precancerous tissue was removed with surgery. This may have been done with a lumpectomy. Or it may have been with a total mastectomy. A lumpectomy means that the tumor and a bit 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 lymph nodes have been removed.

Home Care

Here are suggestions for taking care of yourself at home:

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

  • Do not lift anything heavier than 10 pounds.

  • Do not do active housework until the doctor says it’s okay.

  • Take pain medication as directed.

  • Keep your 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 doctor's instructions about bathing or showering. 

  • Wash your incisions gently. Use mild soap and warm water. Pat dry.

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

  • Eat normal meals as soon as you feel able. Stick to a healthy diet.

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


If you had a mastectomy, you may have options for reconstructive breast surgery. These may include a breast prosthesis. Ask to talk to someone who can tell you more about your options.

When to Call Your Doctor

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

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • 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