A diagnosis of breast cancer can be incredibly stressful and frightening. While there are several treatment options available for breast cancer, in some cases a woman will need to make the choice to have a mastectomy when other treatments do not work. A mastectomy can bring forth a number of physical and emotional effects-- use the following tips to cope with a mastectomy:
See a Physical Therapist in Advance
A mastectomy is a major surgery, and your range of motion can change post-surgery as you heal. It is a good idea to be proactive and see a physical therapist prior to your surgery to learn what exercises you should do after the surgery to promote healing and increase the range of motion in your shoulders, arms, and core muscles. Neglecting to do physical therapy exercises after a mastectomy may lead to muscle atrophy.
Arrange for Help at Home
Immediately after a mastectomy, you may feel soreness, pain, and have difficulty using your arms for normal activities such as washing your hair, opening doors, or using the restroom. It is important to arrange for a family member or friend to stay with you after you are discharged from the hospital so you have someone to help you throughout the day so you can get the rest you need to recover.
Consider Breast Reconstruction
Many women who undergo mastectomies choose to have breast reconstruction surgery performed to repair the appearance of the chest. It is not uncommon for a woman to have breast reconstruction during the same surgery as the mastectomy, which eliminates the need for an additional surgery. But if you are unsure about immediate breast reconstruction, you can choose to have the procedure done months, or even years later. During breast reconstruction, a plastic surgeon will use tissue from another area of your body, an implant, or a combination of the two to reconstruct the breast.
While most women are grateful to be cancer-free after a mastectomy, it is not uncommon to feel emotional about the process and the loss of one or both breasts. Even after breast reconstruction, some women long for the way their body looked prior to the mastectomy. If you are having a difficult time recovering emotionally from a mastectomy, consider making appointments with a therapist to help you work through your feelings.
Communicate with Your Partner
Some women are very nervous about being intimate with their partner after a mastectomy. Be open and honest with your partner about your feelings, and encourage him or her to do the same. In most cases, intimacy can be restored quickly between partners with mutual respect for each other.