After breast reconstruction

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How long does it take to recover?

It generally takes 2-6 weeks to recover from reconstruction surgery. The length of time your surgery takes will usually affect your recovery time: If you’re having a longer, more complicated flap surgery, your recovery will be much longer than if you were having implant surgery. We have some general information about what to expect after surgery.

Will I have scars?

All surgery results in scarring of some sort. In general, implants leave shorter scars just on your breast. With flap techniques there will be scars on other parts of your body too, from where the tissue has been taken (donor site). For example, your back, tummy or thigh.

You can expect most scars to be lumpy at first and to go through a period of being pink, red and raised. Usually – but not always – they will gradually become flat and pale. This can take as long as 2 years to happen.

Are there any complications to the surgery?

All surgery has risks. Your surgeon will talk to you about the chances of you developing any complications with your particular surgery type before you have the operation. Being a healthy weight and not smoking can reduce the risk of some complications.

We have more information about possible complications after breast reconstruction surgery.

Getting used to your new breast

Every day after your surgery, your new breast will undergo changes as healing takes place. It will take time to adjust to your new body image.

  • Disappointment: You may feel disappointed at first if your shape is not what you expected it to be. You may also have some pain. But any swelling, bruising and discomfort in the days after your surgery will gradually ease off. This should help you to feel happier about your new breast.
  • Lack of sensation: The fact that your new breast feels different and lacks the same sensation as natural breast tissue might surprise you. But with time, you should get used to this and accept it as part of your new breast.
  • Length of recovery: It can often take some months to finally complete both the adjustments to your opposite breast and to create your new nipple. You might find this a bit frustrating. It can help to understand that breast reconstruction is not just one operation but a process. Usually with time and some adjustments, you will get a result you’re happy with.

For some women, having breast reconstruction helps them regain their sense of femininity and to feel more attractive and confident. Read more about coping with changes to your body image and self-esteem.

Need to talk?

  • Talk to your breast care nurse or surgeon if you have any questions or worries.
  • You can call our Support Line on 1800 200 700 or visit a Daffodil Centre to talk to one of our cancer nurses.
  • Our nurses can also put you in touch with a woman who has had breast reconstruction, through our Survivor Support programme
  • Free one-to-one counselling is available at our affiliated cancer support centres

For more information

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1800 200 700

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