15 Answers To What Life After Breast Reconstruction Surgery Is Like

15 Answers To What Life After Breast Reconstruction Surgery Is Like


When can I have sex?

You shouldn’t have sex for at least one or two weeks after surgery. You’ll want to give your body some time to recover. After that, you can have sex whenever you feel physically and emotionally ready.

It’s normal to feel nervous, unsure, or self-conscious in the beginning. Our Female Sexual Medicine and Women’s Health Program is available to help you. For more information or to make an appointment, call 646-888-5076.

How and when can my breasts be touched?

Avoid putting pressure on the surgical site in the first weeks after surgery. After that, your level of intimacy is up to you. Following a mastectomy, your chest and reconstructed breast may lose sensation. The degree of sensation that returns to the reconstructed breast varies by person and breast area. Some areas of the breast, such as the inner breast over the breastbone, regain sensation much better than others, such as the outside of the breast. Most women regain sensation to hot or cold temperatures or feelings of sharp or deep pressure. The return of sensation usually takes time, often as long as one year after surgery.

How can I feel like a woman again?

From diagnosis to recovery, breast cancer can affect the way you feel as a woman in ways that may surprise you. At MSK, we’re here to help you thrive despite these challenges. Individual and family counseling is available to help you and your family cope. 

Will breast reconstruction change my risk of cancer recurrence?

No. Studies have shown that breast reconstruction does not change the risk of breast cancer recurrence either in the breast or in other locations in the body. Breast reconstruction also does not delay a diagnosis of breast cancer recurrence or change its treatment.

There is always some risk that your cancer could return, though. It could come back in the same area as your original cancer (local recurrence), in the nearby lymph nodes (regional recurrence), or in farther-away areas (distant recurrence). The good news is there are many strategies that can reduce your risk of a breast cancer recurrence. A few of these include:

  • hormone therapy
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • targeted therapy
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • exercising
  • eating a healthy diet

How will I feel in six months? In a year? Five years?

Every woman’s breast reconstruction experience is unique. Right after surgery, you may have tenderness, numbness, and twinges of pain. These sensations usually come and go, and often decrease within the first few months after surgery. However, some may last months, even one year or longer. This is because the nerves are the slowest part of your body to heal.

As you continue to heal, you may feel scar tissue begin to form, which will feel hard. This is common and will most likely soften over the next several months. It takes at least one year, sometimes longer, for all your tissue to fully heal and your scars to fade. You may go through a period of emotional adjustment, too. If you have any concerns about your physical or emotional health during your recovery, MSK is here for you and has a variety of resources to help you.

When can I drive again?

Many women can drive two to three weeks after surgery. Depending on your reconstruction, you’ll probably be on a narcotic pain reliever for the first week after surgery. If you’ve had flap reconstruction, you may need this medicine for a few days more than if you’ve had tissue expanders or implants. Don’t drive while you take this type of medicine, which can make you drowsy. Also, don’t drive until:

  • your drain(s) have been removed
  • you have recovered your full range of motion
  • you can comfortably turn the steering wheel

If you have questions about when it’s safe for you to drive, talk with your healthcare provider.

When will I feel less exhausted?

Fatigue is common after breast cancer surgery. After all, your body has been through a lot. Be patient with yourself as you recover, but also tell your doctor if you’re concerned about your fatigue. It may be normal, or it may be a sign of underlying factors, such as depression, insomnia, or anemia.

When can I pick up my kids?

This depends on the type of reconstruction you’ve had. Regardless of surgery type, you shouldn’t lift anything heavier than five pounds — including your kids — until your doctor says it’s safe. This is usually about six weeks for people who have tissue-transfer reconstruction and four to six weeks for people who have surgery with tissue expanders or implants. If you can, plan ahead for childcare for young kids.

When can I exercise?

You’ll need to avoid strenuous activities, such as jogging and tennis, until your doctor tells you it’s safe. Your physical therapist will give you written instructions on what exercises and movements you can do while your incisions are healing. Talk with your doctor or nurse before starting any exercises outside these prescribed moves. If you’re having discomfort, you may find it helpful to take some pain medication 30 minutes before starting exercise.

Which office should complete my FMLA or disability paperwork? Can someone write an out-of-work letter for my employer?

If you’ve had reconstruction requiring you to be out of work, your plastic surgeon’s office will complete your paperwork and provide you with a letter.

If I feel a lump on my implant or around my reconstructed breast, what should I do?

If you feel a lump, tell your breast surgeon. You can also mention it to your plastic surgeon during a follow-up visit.

Who removes my drains?

If you’ve had any type of reconstruction, one of our plastic surgery nurses usually removes the drains when they meet the criteria to come out. You do not need to see your plastic surgeon for drain removal.

Whose office should I follow up with to schedule my routine mammogram?

Your breast surgeon should schedule your routine mammograms.

If I have restrictions that limit physical activity, can I obtain a letter to suspend my gym membership?

Yes. If you’ve had reconstruction, your plastic surgeon’s office can provide you with this letter for the duration of your recovery or restriction period. If you have not had reconstruction, contact your breast surgeon’s office.

Where can I obtain a copy of my medical records?

You can obtain any office or procedure notes from your plastic surgeon’s office for up to three dates of service. For your complete medical records, or for more than three encounters, contact our Release of Information department by phone at 646-227-2089 or email [email protected].

Request an Appointment

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