You need time to recover and to adjust to the change and to seeing  the reconstructed breast(s) as your own. Tell your breast care nurse if you are having difficulties. 

Adjusting to the change in your body

You will need time to adjust to the change in your body and to see the reconstructed breast or breasts as your own. Looking at and touching your reconstructed breast(s) can often help.

Try to gradually build up the amount of times you look at and feel your breast(s). If you find this difficult or are avoiding looking at your breast(s), it is important to talk to your breast care nurse.

Your healthcare team can give you extra support if you need it.

Looking after your skin

Your wounds may feel itchy after your operation. But 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 and 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.

Scars

After your operation, scars will be quite firm and may be slightly raised. If you have lighter skin they will be red, and if you have dark skin they will be darker. It can take from 18 months to 2 years for scars to settle and fade. Tell your doctor or specialist breast nurse if:

  • the scars remain red and raised
  • you have concerns about how your scars are healing.

There are specific scar treatments that can help the scars settle and fade.

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

Sex

It is usually fine to have sex after your operation. But it is important that you feel comfortable when having sex. This will probably be a few weeks after your operation, but it may take longer. Ask your surgeon or specialist breast nurse if there is anything you need to be careful about.

Having breast reconstruction will create a new breast shape. But the sensations in the breast and nipple will not be the same as before. If you were previously aroused by having your breasts touched, you may find that your arousal is affected.

Take things at your own pace. If you have a partner, talk to them about any concerns you have. Some women feel nervous about how their partner will react to their body. It may take some time for you to feel comfortable talking about your surgery and showing them your reconstructed breast.

Sometimes a partner may worry about touching the reconstructed breast, because they think they may hurt you. It can help for you and your partner to talk about how you feel and any fears you have. Your breast care nurse can also advise you.

Work

When you can return to work depends on:

  • whether you are having further cancer treatment
  • the type of operation you had
  • the type of work you do.

If your job does not involve heavy manual work and you are not having treatment you may be able to go back to work sooner.

We have more information about work and cancer.

Driving

You can usually start driving again:

  • once you can use the gear stick and handbrake
  • as long as you can do an emergency stop and move the steering wheel suddenly if necessary.

Some women are able to drive within a few weeks after surgery. Others find it takes longer. Insurance companies often have their own guidelines about when you can drive again after an operation. You should check this with your car insurance company.

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.


How we can help

Macmillan Cancer Support Line
The Macmillan Support Line offers confidential support to people living with cancer and their loved ones. If you need to talk, we'll listen.
0808 808 00 00
7 days a week, 8am - 8pm
Email us
Get in touch via this form
Chat online
7 days a week, 8am - 8pm
Online Community
An anonymous network of people affected by cancer which is free to join. Share experiences, ask questions and talk to people who understand.
Help in your area
What's going on near you? Find out about support groups, where to get information and how to get involved with Macmillan where you live.