After you return to your room, a nurse will frequently check your temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and bandage. The nurse will ask you to turn, cough, and breathe deeply to keep your lungs clear after the anesthesia. You may also be encouraged to move your feet and legs to improve your blood circulation. Although each woman reacts to surgery differently, you will probably discover that by the next day you will be able to drink some juice or broth and, with help, to sit up in bed and walk from your bed to a chair in your room. Your doctor will probably encourage you to walk around and eat solid food as soon as possible.
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 is 7 to 10 days. Before you leave, the tube that drains fluid from your incision will be removed. Some of your stitches may also be removed before you leave the hospital. The remaining stitches will be taken out within 1 to 3 weeks at the doctor's office or clinic.
With your doctor's permission, a Reach to Recovery volunteer may visit you in the hospital. Reach to Recovery is an American Cancer Society program that brings volunteers who have had mastectomies together with breast cancer patients. A volunteer will be able to discuss with you any concerns you may have about coping with your mastectomy. She may also give you a lightweight, fiber-filled or cotton breast form to fasten inside your bra, robe, or nightgown while you are recuperating.