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The time it takes to heal after surgery is different for each woman. Surgery causes pain and tenderness, which medicine can help control. Before having surgery for breast cancer, you should discuss the plan for pain relief with your doctor or nurse. After surgery, your doctor can adjust the plan if you need more relief.
After a mastectomy, a woman may choose to:
- Wear a breast form, called a prosthesis, that fits in her bra
- Have her breast reconstructed by a plastic surgeon
- Do neither.
Some health insurance plans pay for all or part of the costs of a prosthesis or for breast reconstruction. However, there may be health insurance rules about where a woman can have breast reconstruction surgery or where to buy a prosthesis. For details about your health plan coverage, contact your insurance company.
Risks With Surgery for Breast CancerAny kind of breast cancer surgery also carries a risk of infection, bleeding, or other problems. You should tell your healthcare provider right away if you develop any problems.
You may feel off balance if you've had one or both breasts removed. You may feel more off balance if you have large breasts. This imbalance can cause discomfort in your neck and back. Also, the skin where your breast was removed may feel tight. Your arm and shoulder muscles may feel stiff and weak. These problems usually go away. The doctor, nurse, or physical therapist can suggest exercises to help you regain movement and strength in your arm and shoulder. Exercise can also reduce stiffness and pain. You may be able to begin gentle exercises within days of surgery.
Because nerves may be injured or cut during breast cancer surgery, you may have numbness and tingling in your chest, underarm, shoulder, and upper arm. These feelings usually go away within a few weeks or months, but for some women, the numbness doesn't go away.