After breast reconstruction surgery, patients are typically sore for at least one week, possibly several more depending on the type of surgery. Sometimes a patient is not released from the hospital until a week later to ensure the operation was completely successful with no delayed complications. Most patients are sore, bruised, and unable to wear bras for six to eight weeks. About one year after breast reconstruction, the patient should have a magnetic resonance imaging (MIR) to make sure his or her implants are not leaking. Some patients find themselves confused or with negative feelings about their new implants, in which case therapy is normally recommended.
The length of recovery largely depends on the type of surgery performed to reconstruct the breast. If tissue was removed from one part of the body to pad the breast, the recovery can take several weeks longer than using silicone inserts. In addition, the patient will have more wound sites to tend and more scars once everything is healed. While these scars will fade and might even become nearly insignificant, they will never completely disappear. It can take up to two years for the breast tissues to completely heal and the scars to fade, but some particularly healthy people who also do not smoke may heal in about one year.
It may be necessary to wear a supportive garment after breast reconstruction, but certain bras are usually uncomfortable. For example, bras with a hard under-wire are typically avoided. The patient can wear a soft-cup bra or a garment specifically designed to support healing breasts. This varies depending on the surgery and the person, so patients should ask their doctor for advice on this subject.
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For most people, it may be possible to return to work within a couple weeks after breast reconstruction as long as the job does not require heavy lifting or strenuous activity. For example, a dance instructor may be advised to wait a little longer before returning to work. In addition, many surgeons recommend avoiding sex for one month to one month and a half to avoid injuring the delicate, healing breast tissues.
Contrary to myth, breast reconstruction does not increase the odds of breast cancer returning. In addition, having reconstructed breasts does not make the discovery of new cancer more difficult. If the patient’s breast cancer should return, the procedures to treat it are the same or very similar to the ones used on a natural breast.