At home

When you first get home, it is a good idea to have someone around who can help you. You will probably feel tired for the first 1 to 2 weeks. At home, you should gradually increase your level of activity.

Avoid housework such as vacuuming. This might put strain on the muscles in the chest and under the arm. Do light tasks to begin with and slowly build up from there. Do not move or lift anything heavy until your surgeon says it is okay. Avoid lifting babies or children.

Looking after your wounds and scars

Your wounds may feel itchy after breast reconstruction surgery. Try not to scratch the healing skin. The itching will get better as the wounds heal. It usually takes about 6 weeks for wounds to heal fully.

Once your wounds have healed, most surgeons recommend you massage the scars:

  • over your reconstructed breast
  • at the donor site, if you have one.

Do this with body oil or moisturiser at least once a day. Massaging along the length of the scars helps stop them sticking to tissue underneath. It can also help soften your scars. Your surgeon or breast care nurse can tell you what they recommend and show you how much pressure to use.

After your operation, scars will be firm and may be slightly raised. If you have white skin, the scars will be red. If you have brown or black skin, the scars will be darker than your normal skin colour.

It can take 18 months to 2 years for scars to settle and fade. Tell your doctor or specialist breast nurse if:

  • the scars are not fading and remain raised
  • you are worried about how your scars are healing.

There are specific scar treatments that can help the scars settle and fade. If you have keloid scars (raised, thickened scars), they may be more noticeable for longer.

It is very important to protect your scars from the sun. Use a sun cream with a high sun protection factor (SPF). This should be at least SPF 50 for any area of scarring exposed to the sun. You may be told to do this for up to 2 years.

Adjusting to the change in your body

Breast reconstruction surgery can cause many different emotions and feelings. 

Many people who have this surgery are pleased with the result. But they may still have feelings of loss for their previous appearance and health.

It is normal to take time to adjust to how the reconstructed breast feels and looks. You may have concerns about how you feel about your body. At first, your reconstructed breast might not really feel like part of you.

Looking at and touching your reconstructed breast will help you get used to it. Try to gradually build up the amount of times you look at and feel your breast  over time. 

If you find this difficult or are avoiding looking at your breast, it is important to talk to someone. If you have concerns about your body image that do not improve, talk to your breast care nurse about how you feel. 

There are also organisations such as Breast Cancer Now. They have a service called Someone Like Me who can match you with a trained volunteer to help you talk about and cope with your feelings. If you are struggling to adjust emotionally, you can ask to be referred to psychologist or counsellor.

Macmillan is also here to support you. If you would like to talk, you can:

Relationships, sex and intimacy

Having breast surgery may affect your sex life and the way you think and feel about your body (your body image). Usually, this improves with time.

It is usually fine to have sex after your operation, when you have recovered. But it is important you feel comfortable when having sex. This could be a few weeks after your operation, but it may take longer. 

Ask your surgeon or specialist breast nurse whether there is anything you need to be careful about.

Breast reconstruction will create the shape of a breast, but sensation in the breast and nipple will not be the same as before. 

If you were previously aroused by having your breasts touched, your sexual arousal may be affected. It may take time to adjust, but it is still possible to enjoy a fulfilling sex life.

It is important to take things at your own pace.

If you have had breast reconstruction to treat breast cancer and you have other treatment for breast cancer, this might also affect your sex life.

If you are having sexual difficulties that are not improving, help is available. You can get sex counselling through Relate or the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (COSRT). Or ask your doctor to refer you to a sex counsellor. You can also talk to your breast care nurse about this.

If you have a partner

It may take time to feel comfortable talking about your surgery and showing your partner your reconstructed breast. You may feel nervous about your partner’s reaction.

Your partner may be worried about touching the reconstructed breast because they think they may hurt you. You may find talking to each other and sharing your feelings and fears can help you both.

Even if you do not feel like having sex, there are other sensual and affectionate ways of showing how much you care for someone. Some examples of this include, cuddles, kisses and massages. It might help to spend time being close and intimate without having sex. Sometimes this can lead to sex. But it is also a way to build trust and confidence together.

If you are not in a relationship

You may worry about what a new partner might think about your surgery. You may be unsure what to tell a new partner. It is your decision how, when and what you tell them. Usually, talking openly with each other can have a positive effect on your relationship. It can make you feel more comfortable with each other.

We have more information on relationships, sex and intimacy after breast surgery.


When you return to work depends on:

  • the type of work you do
  • the type of operation you have.

If your job does not involve heavy manual work, you may be able to go back to work sooner. You are likely to feel more tired than usual for a while after surgery. You may also find it difficult to concentrate fully at first. This should improve over time.

We have more information about work and cancer.


You can usually start driving again:

  • once you can use the gear stick and handbrake
  • when you feel comfortable and confident enough to do an emergency stop and move the steering wheel suddenly if necessary.

You are usually able to drive within a few weeks after surgery. But some people may find it takes longer. 

Your surgeon or nurse can advise you on this. Insurance companies usually have their own guidelines about when you can drive again after an operation. Check with your insurance company to make sure you are covered.

You can discuss any worries you have about driving after your surgery with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if you live in England, Scotland or Wales. If you live in Northern Ireland, contact the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA).

If you are not happy with the results

The way you feel about your breast reconstruction may depend on your own expectations. Make sure you discuss this with your surgeon before you decide to have surgery.

It takes several months for the breasts to settle into their final shape. This means the way you feel about how they look may change over time. It can take up to 2 years for swelling to settle, and scars to fully heal and fade.

If you have concerns about your reconstructed breast, talk to your surgeon or breast care nurse. It usually takes more than 1 operation to get a good match with your natural breast. Your surgeon may be able to offer you another operation to improve the result. If you are still unhappy after talking with your surgeon, you can ask to speak to another surgeon for a second opinion.

What you think is a successful result may be different to your surgeon. It may be worth taking time to understand more about how you feel about changes to your body before having another operation.

A psychologist or counsellor can help you to do this. This may help you decide what feels right for you. For some people, this is more helpful than having another operation. If you think this might be helpful, you can ask your specialist or GP to make a referral for you.

About our information

  • 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, Professor Mike Dixon, Professor of Surgery and Consultant Breast Surgeon.

    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.

The language we use

We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.

We want our information to be as clear as possible. To do this, we try to:

  • use plain English
  • explain medical words
  • use short sentences
  • use illustrations to explain text
  • structure the information clearly
  • make sure important points are clear.

We use gender-inclusive language and talk to our readers as ‘you’ so that everyone feels included. Where clinically necessary we use the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’. For example, we do so when talking about parts of the body or mentioning statistics or research about who is affected.

You can read more about how we produce our information here.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 November 2022
Next review: 01 November 2025
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.