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All TopicsForum: Surgery - Before, During, and After → Topic: How do you feel after surgery? When did you return to work?

Topic: How do you feel after surgery? When did you return to work?

Forum: Surgery - Before, During, and After — Surgical options and helpful tips for recovery and side effects.

Posted on: Jul 17, 2009 12:32PM

tovahsmom wrote:


I am having a lumpectomy on Aug. 11th. My vacation starts the following monday, the 17th.

I will take the day off for the surgery, but do you think I can return to work the next day?

How many days after a lumpectomy until I feel back to normal and can do stuff like housework and lifting and working in the garden?

Someone I know who had a lumpectomy said her arm hurt afterwards. I have an hour long commute to work - would I be able to drive to work the day after a lumpectomy?

Can anybody tell me what to expect in the days following the surgery? Actually I am having 2 lumpectomies on the same breast. Does this make the healing time even longer?

Thanks for any light you can shed based on your own healing experiences after breast surgery.

I really appreciate this community. 

Patricia, Age 50, Dx ADH, ALH, LCIS, DCIS, BRCA - Dx 8/18/2009, DCIS, Right, Stage 0, Grade 1, 0/0 nodes, ER+/PR+ Dx 7/15/2015, Left Radiation Therapy Whole-breast: Breast
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Jul 17, 2009 12:40PM simmonba wrote:

Are you having a sentinal node biopsy or axillary node dissection?  I had a mastectomy, and found that the part that hurt and needed time to get back to regular use was the underarm area where the sentinal nodes were taken out.  Even though they only took 4, it took a good three weeks before I had full use of that arm again.   By comparision, the mastecomy scar was largely numbe and healed well about 4 days post-surgery. 

A relative who had two lympectomies on the same breast with no nodes removed, said she took two days off mostly because the anesthetic made her feel tired and queasy.  The tiredness lingered after she went back for a week or so; she does office work so could take rest breaks a couple times a day and did not have to exert herself too much physically.  She's 42 and in good shape physically, which I think has a lot to do with how quickly you come back from surgery.

Barb "Today had been a good day." Dx 4/17/2009, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIA, Grade 2, 0/4 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jul 17, 2009 12:46PM simmonba wrote:

Sorry - forgot to say, she found the lumpectomy sites to be quite tender, wore a soft sports bra with some extra padding over the incisions, had to take regular Tylenol for about 5 days.  She did not have a drain inserted as had no nodes removed, but that adds to complexity of healing.   Without assuming anything about your finances, it's important to rest and heal well after surgery, and do as little as you can for a while, as much of a while as you can afford, anyway.  Hope all goes well for you.

Barb "Today had been a good day." Dx 4/17/2009, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIA, Grade 2, 0/4 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jul 17, 2009 12:54PM - edited Jul 17, 2009 12:56PM by tovahsmom

Thank you so much for the insights.

I can afford to take off but I didn't know what I should tell my boss - if I'd be back right after the surgery or not.

It's too bad the surgery isn't on my vacation, but that's the way it had to be. Health obviously comes first.

As far as a sentinel node biopsy, I don't think I am having one of those, but when the tissue is examined while I am still under, they will find out what it is and then who knows. The 2nd lumpectomy is actually an excisional biopsy as the radiologist couldn't get to the 2nd area to biopsy it when she did the first area so the surgeon will do it. Do you know if they put you under when they guide the wire through?

I'd love to hear how other women felt after surgery both immediately after and in the days after. 

Peace and thank you 

Patricia, Age 50, Dx ADH, ALH, LCIS, DCIS, BRCA - Dx 8/18/2009, DCIS, Right, Stage 0, Grade 1, 0/0 nodes, ER+/PR+ Dx 7/15/2015, Left Radiation Therapy Whole-breast: Breast
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Jul 17, 2009 01:12PM tovahsmom wrote:


Thanks so much for the info about your experience. Surgery is on the 11th and I'd ideally like to go back to work on the 13th, but I have a long commute and am concerned about being so far from home if I am suddenly not feeling well. Plus I just don't know what to tell my boss.

I am leaning towards just taking the days off. This is my first surgery as an adult (had tonsillectomy at 4 years old and I remember bouncing back from that pretty quickly), and I have no clue how quickly I will heal as an overweight 44 year old.

It's good to know there is little to no pain involved afterwards.

Anybody else who cares to chime in, I'd love to hear your experiences of after-surgery as well. 

Patricia, Age 50, Dx ADH, ALH, LCIS, DCIS, BRCA - Dx 8/18/2009, DCIS, Right, Stage 0, Grade 1, 0/0 nodes, ER+/PR+ Dx 7/15/2015, Left Radiation Therapy Whole-breast: Breast
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Jul 17, 2009 01:45PM ewambold wrote:


I had a lumpectomy on both sides. Just missed the day of the out-patient surgery. I work in an office so there was no physical work involved. Of course, anesthesia affects everyone differently so unless you know how it affects you, you might want to tell your boss two days.

Good Luck!


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Jul 17, 2009 02:29PM AmyIsStrong wrote:

I had a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy (under the arm). I work at home and sat at my desk and read some emails and did a tiny bit of work later in the afternoon of the surgery.  You cannot shower for a day or so, and I don't know if I would have wanted to dress up and go to work without a shower. Also some women come home with drains in place (I didn't) and I don't know if that would impact your ability to drive.
I also did get nauseous and vomited after the anesthesia and that left me queasy and weak for a bit.
All in all, I was up and around but don't think I would have gone to work for the next two days or so.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

Lumpectomy 4/09, TCH 4/09-8/09, Rads 8/09-10/09 Herceptin 4/09-3/10,Tamoxifen 10/09 - 10/12. Cervical polyp from Tamox, had D&C - benign. Now on Arimidex 10/12. Total hysterectomy 4/13 Dx 3/2/2009, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIA, Grade 3, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2+
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Jul 17, 2009 02:59PM lisa-e wrote:

Tovahsmom, I had a lumpectomy and a excisional biopsy at the same time, in addition to a sentinel node biopsy.  The excisional biopsy was the most painful, as the incision was under my breast, on the bra line.  I had to take pain killers to sleep for about a week.  So I took a week off work and really needed that time.   I could drive short distances within a several days, but would not have wanted to drive  long distances.   Another reason why I didn't return to work early is I didn't get my drains pulled for a week.  Are you going to have drains?  If you are, you probably won't want to go back to work until they are pulled.

 If you can't leave things loose with your boss, I'd tell him/her that you are going to take a week off.  If you feel up to it, you can always return to work early.

Initial BC dx with dcis & idc after lumpectomy & snb in 6/08. in 8/08 dx with multicentric bc (idc) after mri. had bilat mastecomy in 9/08 w/o reconstruction Dx 5/2008, DCIS, 2cm, Stage 0, Grade 3 Dx 6/2008, IDC, <1cm, Stage I, Grade 1, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Dx 8/2008, IDC, 1cm, Stage I, Grade 1, 0/19 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Left, Right, Sentinel; Mastectomy: Right; Prophylactic mastectomy: Left
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Jul 17, 2009 04:29PM Lainey64 wrote:

I had a lumpectomy.  I had to wear a compression garment for 24 hours and couldn't shower during that time.  My surgery was on a Tuesday and I returned to work on Friday.  I probably could have returned on Thursday but I had the time available so I took it.  When I had my second surgery w/SNB and Axillary node dissection, I had that done on a Tuesday and returned to work the following Monday.

www.caringbridge.org/visit/ela... Dx 10/16/2008, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIB, Grade 3, 2/36 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2-
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Jul 18, 2009 05:00PM rjwax wrote:

I just had my surgery on monday, lumpectomy, SNB and axillary dissection. The axillary scar is by far the most uncomfortable, not to mention the drain. I was feeling pretty good the day after surgery, but awful the next day. I would guess that some local anesthetics had probably worn off by then. If you only have the lumpectomy scar, and they use the same incision to access the SNB, then you may feel up to it. But at the same time, there is no need to be a hero and every reason to take care of yourself.

Best wishes,


Age 36, lumpx, dose dense AC + 12 weekly taxol, radsx33, tamoxifen Dx 6/8/2009, IDC, 3cm, Stage IIB, Grade 1, 3/24 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jul 18, 2009 06:02PM kellyless wrote:

I had a full axillary dissection, and got a post op infection from hell - so I can't say what's "normal" - but my suggestion is to find a pillow to put in your lap to rest your arm on during the driving.  When I finally went back to driving, I put this little stiff neck pillow in my lap so that my arm could just rest, and it worked really well.  Before I started using the pillow, my arm would ache when I drove, but that solved it.

botched biopsy, lumpectomy 1/30/09 and full lymph node excision. 2.2 cm IDC, triple neg. 2mm cancer cells on sentinal node, 3/6/09 4 A/C X 4 taxol every 2 - then 6 1/2 wks radiation.
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Jul 19, 2009 12:42PM Seabee wrote:

I wouldn't plan on trying to drive or being back to work the next day, especially since you don't seem to be sure how much they'll do. You might want to clarify this with your surgeon. If you have the sentinel node biopsy and they find cancer cells there, you're in for an axillary node dissection, which is a bummer. That means a longer time in the operating room, more anasthetic, and a drain, which has to be emptied and tended for days or even weeks. If you try getting dressed and going out with a drain, there's a chance that the thing will come apart and leak, and the arm on the side of the dissection will be uncomfortable and weak for some time, if not painful. This varies with individuals.

If I were in your situation I would arrange to take off all the days before vacation, enjoy my vacation, and come back to work rested, healed and with no lingering brain fog from the anasthetic.  If you bounce back quickly, you can always return to work sooner than expected.

Per spem vivo. Dx 9/9/2008, ILC, 2cm, Stage IIB, Grade 1, 3/23 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Jul 26, 2009 11:38AM NickiBv2 wrote:

Hi I had surgery July 15. I took the time off and am returning to work tomorrow.  I had lumpectomies on both sides, sentintel node procedures on both sides and then axillary removal of nodes on the right side.  The surgery lasted almost five hours and I had a drain in for a week. That was the worst, having the drain in and not being able to shower.  I really didn't want to go anywhere until the drain was out.  I have been very tired and glad for the rest.

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Jul 26, 2009 03:55PM kk69Z wrote:

I had my first lumpectomy on a Monday and went back to work Friday. Wasn't sure how I would feel. I did feel well enough to go lawn mower shopping that Thursday. A month later my second lumpectomy I was off only the next day.

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Jul 26, 2009 04:13PM tougherthanithought wrote:

Before we knew the extent of my bc, I had a lumpectomy in March (no node biopsy at that time) and that evening I went to my son's school's Ladies Night Out (Chinese Auction type of thing).  I felt totally fine.  Just had to wear that awful surgical bra.

When I had my bilateral mastectomy, the recovery was a little more involved, but generally, I thought it really wasn't too bad.  I guess it depends on what type of anesthesia you'll have.  You may be a little sore that day and maybe the next.  Just let your body tell you what you need to to.  I would just plan on taking a day or two off, and if you realize you don't need it, then maybe you could go to work if you're feeling up to it.

I hope this helpsSmile


Sherrill Dx 4/1/2009, IDC, 1cm, Stage I, Grade 3, 0/7 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2+

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