At first you will have to be careful not to move
your arm too much. But by the second or third day, you may be ready
to begin exercises to ease the tension in your arm and shoulder.
Women who have axillary sampling usually recover their arm motion
fairly quickly because their surgery is not as extensive as
You will be taking sponge baths for a few days after surgery
until your incision starts to heal. Before you leave the hospital,
ask the doctor or nurse for instructions on taking care of your
incision. When you have permission to bathe or shower, do so gently
and pat, don't rub, the area of your incision.
The average stay in the hospital for an axillary dissection is 7
to 10 days, and 2 to 4 days for an axillary sampling. Before you
leave, the tube that drains fluid from your incision will be
removed. Your stitches will be taken out in 1 to 3 weeks at the
doctor's office or clinic.
Once you are home, you should continue to exercise until you
have regained the full use of your arm. As you increase your
exercise and begin to renew your daily activities, you must be
careful not to overexert yourself. Take clues from your body; rest
before you become tired.
To keep your skin soft and to promote healing, you may want to
massage your incision gently with cocoa butter or vitamin E cream.
As time goes by, the redness, bruising, and swelling will
disappear. But you should watch for any signs of infection such as
inflammation, tenderness, or drainage. If you develop any of these
signs or a fever, call your doctor. Although each woman recovers
from surgery at her own rate, most women are ready for the next
part of their treatment, radiation therapy, about 1 or 2 weeks
after their lymph node surgery.