Common problems following surgery

Most problems arising from breast surgery are not emergencies. These can usually be treated by your community nursing team or your GP. If they have any concerns, they’ll contact your specialist or breast care nurse.

The day after surgery, you may shower as usual and pat the wound dry using a soft, clean towel. Allowing the wound area to get wet in the shower will not cause any damage, in fact, keeping the area clean helps prevent infection and encourages healing. It’s better not to soak the wound area in a bath. Swimming should also be avoided until the wound has healed.

It’s normal to experience some pain after breast surgery. Usually the pain tablets recommended by the hospital will control the pain if you take them in the recommended doses. Some pain tablets can cause constipation. It’s important to ensure you are having sufficient fluid during the day and that you are doing some gentle exercise. In some cases you may require a simple laxative. If you need advice about this, contact your GP or breast care nurse.

If you experience an increase in pain after you go home, you may be developing problems with your wound. If this happens, contact your breast care nurse, GP or the hospital to have the wound checked and to get advice on how to manage the pain.

Many women experience sharp stabbing like pains that do not last for long but can be concerning. This is normal after breast surgery. These pains do not require any special treatment and they will settle over time.

Minor bruising around the wound is common after any surgery. More significant bruising will occur in around 25% of patients. Other than giving a dark appearance, which may change to a yellow colour, this is usually not a problem. Most bruising will settle without treatment as the body breaks down the blood collection over a two to three week period. A more significant form of bruising is a haematoma, which sometimes requires treatment. This is discussed later in this brochure

It’s common to get some swelling or lumpiness along the edges of the wound. It may take six to eight weeks for the wound to flatten out. This is early scar tissue forming and it is not a cause for concern.

A blocked or leaking drain is an annoying situation. If the drain leaks simply wash around the drain site, apply a clean pad, and tape it around the drain. If the leak continues, call the community nurse or breast care nurse to obtain advice. It may be that the drain is blocked and may need to be removed earlier than planned. Once again, this is not an emergency.

A seroma is a build-up of normal body fluid that often occurs after armpit (axillary) surgery. Although seromas can be uncomfortable and cause significant swelling, they are not dangerous.  Seroma can develop even after a drain has been removed at the “correct” time.

The stitches in your wound are usually dissolving and do not need to be removed. The stitches are internal, but occasionally, part of a stitch doesn’t dissolve and may partly come out through the skin. If this happens, the stitch needs to be cut and removed, you can do this yourself or ask your doctor or nurse to do it for you.

Top of page