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Bilateral Mastectomy w/o Reconstruction

BunnyJane's picture
Posts: 213
Joined: Jul 2009

Hi all~

I'm scheduled for a bilateral mastectomy w/o reconstruction on 12/1 and have a couple of questions.

I live alone and have no family (or none that are able/willing to help), so was wondering how difficult it is to manage emptying the drains, etc. I believe that I will have a visiting nurse for at least a few days after I get home.

I work full time and didn't take time off for my first surgery (lumpectomy) or during the 12 weeks of chemo. How much time do you think that I need to request off? I have a sedentary desk job.

Thanks for any suggestions that you can offer! Jane

New Flower
Posts: 4299
Joined: Aug 2009

It depends on what kind of reconstruction are you going to have.
For Diep/Tram flap you need 8 weeks.
You will need a Visiting nurse definitely. Recovery is very individual and depends on your surgery and organism. You should ask your doctors about standard recovery time for your case.
Good luck

BunnyJane's picture
Posts: 213
Joined: Jul 2009

I'm having a double mastectomy without reconstruction. I'm hoping to get a better understanding of how long I will need to be out of work.

carkris's picture
Posts: 4554
Joined: Aug 2009

I think you need to ask your doctor, I am on Loa but some people work through chemo etc...
after surgery drains can be in for a while, I am a nurse so handled my own, I would say a month at least. what do the rest of you think. barring any complications? is there an option for shortened days? It is major surgery.

Wolfi's picture
Posts: 425
Joined: Aug 2009


I had a bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction in August. The surgeon said I could go back to work after two weeks but I stayed home for four weeks and was glad I did. You might want to schedule 4-6 weeks out of work and go back sooner if you feel up to it. I also have a desk job and I was tired after I went back to work. I started radiation soon after returning to work and have just gone back to working full time (after completing radiation on Nov 11th).

Dealing with the drains wasn't a big deal and I always emptied them myself, but showering was another story. I always had my husband wash my hair for me and help me with my shower until I got my drains removed.

One thing I would suggest is to get help from others when you can - cooking, cleaning, errands, etc. can seem like too much when you are tired and sore from surgery.

I wish you luck with your surgery. Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns. I usually check this site and my messages at least once a day.

lynn1950's picture
Posts: 2574
Joined: Jun 2008

I thought I'd always remember how long I stayed home, but I'm not sure. It's been a year and a half since my bilateral mastectomy w/o reconstruction. I know I was three days in the hospital and stayed home at least one week. You need time to focus on yourself and recover. I did my drains myself. It's the greatest relief to get the drains out! xoxoxo Lynn

Sunrae's picture
Posts: 808
Joined: Oct 2009

Sorry you're having to go thru this. Wish some of us lived nearby so we could be there for you. Will you have lymph node involvement too? Hopefully some of the other beautiful ladies on this board will be able to help you out on your questions. I'm waiting for my tumors to shrink so I can have surgery. Keep us posted. You're in our thoughts and prayers.

New Flower
Posts: 4299
Joined: Aug 2009

Sunrae is correct. If you have nodes involvement could be longer.
I would plan for 4 weeks. Talk to your doctor.
Good luck with your surgery

TraciInLA's picture
Posts: 1996
Joined: Jul 2009

Hi, Jane -

I haven't been through a mastectomy myself, but I just wanted to say how amazed I am by your strength!

You and I were on parallel paths for awhile -- lumpectomy, then 4 rounds of TC -- and you really made me look bad! :-) I also have a sedate desk job, but ended up taking time off.

As strong as you are, I just hate to hear that you'll be alone after your surgery -- one small thing I would urge you to do is contact the ACS ahead of time for possible help driving you to your doctors' appointments after surgery. Even if you think you'll be fine getting around, it might give you a little peace of mind (okay, it'll give ME peace of mind) just knowing that there's another resource there for you if you need it.


Posts: 9
Joined: Nov 2009

Hi Jane, I just had my Mastectomy with reconstruction on Nov. 3. I think it's great that you will have a nurse/home health there to help the first week. You will definitely need it. I actually drained my drains myself from day 1. You will sleep a lot that first 5 days to 1 week. I actually only took 1 week off of work, but I work out of my home office so I was able to work the second week. But, I slept in late, got to my desk by 9am, and took naps in the early part of the second week. You might request 3 weeks off with the option of working part time when you are ready. You work may request a note from your doctor releasing you to work so speak with your company and your doctor. I was sent home after 1 night in the hospital and sent home with 4 drains. The first 2 were removed after 1 week, but I still have 2 in and I keep them tucked in my waistband of my sweat pants or in pockets.

The best advice I can give you is to start stretching now if you don't already. My flexibility has really helped with my range of motion and I was able to pick up stretching just 3 days post surgery and it really helped me sleep better at night and releive me of many of the aches and pains from sleeping in one position for several days/weeks.

Best of luck with your surgery and I hope you have an easy recovery.

Posts: 550
Joined: Nov 2009

The drains can be difficult for just person I would think. My daughter drained mine for me, but I remember holding the tubes so they wouldn't come out--which probably wasn't at all necessary!! With all the medications, etc., I wasn't "normal" for about 6 weeks. I took off about 8 weeks from work, but my job is on my feet moving around all day.

Marlene_K's picture
Posts: 508
Joined: Jul 2009

I only had a modified radical mastectomy of the left breast. I had two drains. I am very squeemish about anything medical. I didn't think I could handle the drains. I actually took a box of the surgical gloves and whenever I had to empty the drains, I would put a pair on and squeeze it down. One of my nurses did that while I was in the hospital and don't know why they don't suggest it. I think it made it much easier than using the alcohol swabs they give you... I never seemed to get enough of a grip with them. A friend did it for me the first time and after that I was fine doing it myself. I truly surprised myself. I was told they could come out in a week, but ended up have them for two. My doctor gave me two weeks off and had it not been for drains, I think I could've gone back sooner. I hated going anywhere with them in because no matter how much I tried to conceal them, I thought it was obvious. It is a real relief when they come out. Definitely do any & all exercises they suggest as I felt that aided in my speedy recovery. I know they didn't consider a single mastectomy a 'major' surgery... not sure about a double. For sure ask your doctor. They have a set amount of time they give patients to recover for every procedure. I work in an office too, and was very ready to be back at work when I went back after two weeks.

Think positive and you will heal quickly. I wish you the best and let us know how you make out!


BunnyJane's picture
Posts: 213
Joined: Jul 2009

for your suggestions. I'm feeling that with a little help I can handle caring for the drains. I can't wait to have this over with. Hey, I have a ski trip planned for February, so I better heal quickly! Thx! jane

Posts: 2
Joined: Sep 2009

Hi Bunny - I had a bilateral with delay reconstruction on Nov. 5 and was able to have my drains removed by Nov. 9 - what a blessing! My husband used a wall paper roller (1") to "squeeze" my drains - it worked really good and that is something you could do on your own. Lay your drains on a chest high dresser and roll away! I am almost 2 weeks post op and doing great. I also have a desk job but am not scheduled to return to work until Dec. 7. Everyone heals different so make sure you listen to your body and take care of you! Good Luck!

jk1952's picture
Posts: 613
Joined: May 2009

Jane, I had a bilateral mastectomy with immediate DIEP reconstruction, so it's not the same as your surgery. I was out eight weeks with this surgery, and I had never had more than a couple days off with any other BC surgeries or radiation (I did not have chemo, though, so I know that would probably be different).

But, my surgeon told me that the normal recovery for a bilateral mastectomy alone is four weeks. I would encourage you to take the full time, if your job allows. I handled my drains from the beginning, but I didn't really do much else for a week or two. As others have commented, although the drains are manageable, I wouldn't have wanted to go back to work while I still had them.

I'm sorry that you have to go through this alone. I hope that the right people come into your life when you most need them.


Posts: 28
Joined: Nov 2009

As soon as the drains are out you should be allowed to drive and return to work, 8-10 days. They are sending you a nurse who will hopefully handle the drains untill you are comfortable with it.

Posts: 58
Joined: May 2009

I had a bilateral mastectomy WITH reconstruction. I had a co-worker who had the same procedure done WITHOUT reconstruction.

We were both out of work for 6 weeks. We both have desk jobs......


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