Postoperatively, when lymph nodes have been removed (mastectomy and/or lumpectomy with sentinel lymph node biopsy), it is very important to regain confidence and the ability to move your arm freely. Most of our cancer patients will see a physical therapist when they are seen at the Multidisciplinary Conference. This visit serves as a baseline, in case range of motion should be limited in the future. It is extremely important to be sure that patients regain their range of motion quickly following surgery.
Here are some relatively easy exercises that can be instituted within one week of most surgical procedures. Certainly, they should be gradually implemented. You may have some discomfort while performing these ‘moves’, however, if you have pain, you should stop.
1. A responsible adult must drive you home following your surgical procedure. Your surgery will be cancelled if you do not have a driver.
2. No driving for as long as oral narcotic pain medication is required.
3. Do not drink alcohol while taking narcotic pain medication.
4. Most wounds are covered with Dermabond or Histacryl. These are clear adhesive dressings. It does not glue the wound together, but, acts as a bandage. It will peel off (like a sunburn peel) within 10-14 days.
5. Many women find it more comfortable to wear a tight bra, even while sleeping. This is not mandatory, but may be helpful. A supportive bra may be given to you at the hospital; it is ok to switch to your own bra if more comfortable.
6. Your activities should be dictated by how you feel. No heavy lifting that requires two hands for 1 week. Light lifting is OK, as long as it doesn’t produce pain.
7. You will be given a prescription for pain medication, take this as directed. Use any type of laxative while using any narcotic pain medication, as they can cause sever constipation. You may use over the counter pain remedies such as Tylenol or Motrin if stronger pain medication is not necessary.
8. Sometimes a ‘drain’ tube is used, so fluid doesn’t accumulate in surgical cavities/spaces. Drain care is very important: keep the site clean; it is ok to shower with the drain tube in place. Change the dressing daily, to remove moisture from the drain site. Call the office with any questions.