Your breast after surgery

It is common to have some swelling and bruising around the breast after your operation. This should improve after a few weeks. If it does not, tell your specialist nurse.

Wearing a crop top or sports bra might feel more comfortable until the swelling goes down. You will need to wear a supportive bra in hospital after your surgery and when at home.

Some hospitals recommend wearing a bra all the time in the first few weeks. This can help to support the breast and reduce bruising. It can help to get some advice from your breast care nurse about this.

If you had an SLNB, you may see the blue dye in your skin for a few weeks. This is normal.

Scars

Before your operation, your surgeon or specialist nurse will explain where the scars will be.

Scars from breast-conserving surgery are usually small, but it depends on the size of the tissue that was removed. The scars may be in the area where the cancer was, or a short distance away. This depends on where the surgeon makes the cut. Your surgeon will try to make the scar as small as possible so it is less noticeable.

If you have a mastectomy, the scar will be across the skin of the chest and may go up into the armpit. If you have surgery to the lymph nodes, the scar will be in the armpit and should not be noticeable from the front.

If you have pale skin, your scar will be red immediately after your operation. If you have dark skin, your scar will be darker. The scar will also be firm and slightly raised. Over time, it will flatten and fade. Everyone’s skin heals differently. If you have dark skin or fair, freckled skin, scars can take longer to fade. This means they may be more noticeable for longer. If you are worried about your scar, talk to your specialist nurse or surgeon.

For women having reconstruction we have more information about scarring after breast reconstruction.

Coping with a changed appearance

The first time you look at your breast or chest after surgery you may want to have someone with you, or you might prefer to be alone. Your specialist nurse will talk to you about this and help support you.

At first, the area may look swollen and bruised, but this will settle in a few weeks. In time, the scar will flatten and fade.

Changes to your appearance can cause concerns about your body image. This is the picture in your mind of how your body looks and works. These concerns can make you feel less confident or less feminine. This may also affect your sex life. Some women find that breast reconstruction can help give them back their confidence and feelings of femininity.

Breast prosthesis

If you do not have breast reconstruction at the same time as mastectomy, your specialist nurse will give you a prosthesis (false breast) to wear inside your bra. The prosthesis is soft and lightweight. It is often called a cumfie or softie. You can wear it straight after your operation.

When your wound has healed, usually about 6 weeks after your surgery, you can choose a permanent prosthesis made of soft plastic (silicone). It will be matched to the size and shape of your other breast and your skin colour. Many women find their confidence gradually improves as they get used to it.

You can get different types of prosthesis from the NHS. Breast Cancer Care can also give you a list of suppliers.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our breast cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    European Society for Medical Oncology. Primary breast cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of oncology 26 (supplement 5): v8–v30. 2015.

    Morrow M, et al. Chapter 79: malignant tumors of the breast. DeVita, Hellman and Rosenberg’s cancer: principals and practice of oncology (10th edition). Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. 2014.

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Early and locally advanced breast cancer: diagnosis and management. July 2018.

    Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network. SIGN 134. Treatment of primary breast cancer: a national clinical guideline. September 2013.


  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Rebecca Roylance, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.


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