Category Archives: mastectomy

Top 10 Mastectomy Prep Tips

One of the main frustrations voiced by mastectomy patients prior to going for surgery is that they don’t feel like they have enough “good” information about what to bring to the hospital and what they’ll need after the surgery. While the internet is FULL of information (which can be scary and overwhelming), none of it is practical or useful.

I recently had a patient reach out to me for my “list” so I thought I would share it with you. Again, I’m not a medical professional and, of course, there are many more things you will need for your personal situation, but these are the top 10 things that were important to me during my post-op recovery.

Before you go:

#1) Breast Cancer Treatment Handbook:
It was easy to understand, straightforward and informative. Click here to learn more.
#2) Fill your prescriptions:
Make sure you fill all of your prescriptions and buy all of the OTC medicines (Advil, Tylenol, Culturelle, etc) before going in for surgery.
#3) Pack for your hospital stay:
I brought dry shampoo (see #5 below), lip balm, flip flops or slippers, yoga-type pants, zipper front hoodies and a lanyard with large safety pins (for the drains) A side comment about the drains: Learn how to strip the drain lines while in the hospital. Make sure you ask the nurses how to do it. Don’t assume you know what to do (I made that mistake and was doing it wrong). Also, I had the best luck with my drains working the best by pushing the bulb up in the bottom vs squeezing the sides.

At home:

#4) No Rinse soap:
The scariest thing for me when I got home from the hospital was taking a shower. I was afraid to get wet. I wasn’t able to life my arms well but I wanted to feel clean. Luckily there was a bottle of no-rinse soap in my hospital room which I took it home with me. It was a life saver. I could feel clean by washing with a wash rag but didn’t have the fear of getting wet from head to toe. Click here to see the one I used.
#5) Dry shampoo:
In keeping with the personal hygiene theme, I knew I wouldn’t be able to wash my hair for a while after surgery so I stocked up on dry shampoo. This miracle product absorbs the oil and grease from your hair. Your local grocery store or pharmacy will have many brands for you to choose from.
#6) Non-aluminium deodorant:
If you haven’t done so already, you’ll need to convert over to natural deodorant. Everyone’s biology is different and responds differently to the components each deodorant. You’ll have to play around to find the one that “works” for you, if you know what I mean. Some options are Tom’s, JASON, Primal Life Organics or whatever you can find at your local health foods store. Don’t give up! I use the “dirty” version from Primal Life Organics (the one in the photo is regular) but you’ll have to choose one that’s right for your body.
#7) Medicine chart:
My medicine charts were VERY helpful for my husband/caregivers (and me) to remember all of the medicines to administer.You’ll need to modify it to your situation and your particular prescriptions, but here’s what I used (Med chart).
#8) Scar minimization:
Don’t be in a hurry to get rid of your surgical tape. My surgeon recommended that I keep tape on my incisions for as long as possible. I changed the tape every week for almost 3 months. Once I took the tape off I started applying Vitamin E daily. Doing this will keep the incisions from “raising” or looking inflamed.
#9) Bras:
I searched high and low for front closure bras. Most were really expensive. My surgeon recommended these from Target. I wasn’t able to close these myself the first few weeks but they offered the best support once the bangages were removed. I had to wait to buy them though because I didn’t know what my post-op size would be. Also, as the swelling decreased, my bra size decreased so don’t buy too many at first.
#10) Nursing tanks:
I had to modify them a bit, but there is nothing better than a nursing tank while you are wearing your drains. It allows you, and the doctors, easy access to your incisions, without having to undress. If you modify them correctly, you can pull them up from the bottom eliminating the painful “over the head” dressing approach. You can buy these before surgery, just make sure to get them oversized as you’ll appreciate the extra room.
None of this is easy, but it doesn’t have to feel hard. A few simple steps to get prepared prior to surgery will make things easier and more relaxed for you. It will allow you to focus on your recovery!
Be strong this week,