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A full guide to oncoplastic breast surgery recovery

A full guide to oncoplastic breast surgery recovery


In the UK, there are over 55,000 new breast cancer diagnoses in the UK every year; resulting in around 150 new cases each day. As extensive research into breast cancer treatment increases, the chances of survival have improved and have doubled in the last forty years.

With various treatments available, breast cancer patients should consider what the aftereffects of surgery will be, including how the breast will look. Oncoplastic breast surgery combines treatment and plastic surgery techniques to simultaneously remove the tumour whilst reconstructing the breast for improved cosmetic outcomes.

This guide will closely look at what patients should know about the recovery period post-surgery and how Stephen McCulley can help.

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How difficult is the recovery period?

Unlike other reconstructive surgeries, oncoplastic breast surgery is less invasive and prioritises the removal of the tumour alongside cosmetic procedures. This means that the recovery period, compared to surgeries such as the DIEP flap and LD flap, starts earlier and is generally much shorter and easier.

Plus, oncoplastic breast surgery is a combined surgery for both treatment and reconstruction. Consequently, patients may be able to go home the same day as the surgery and recover in the comfort of their own homes.

If you require more information on the recovery period for oncoplastic breast surgery, read our full guide here.

How can you manage post-surgery pain and scars?

Though there are many benefits to oncoplastic breast surgery, including an improved recovery, side effects may still occur. Patients will most likely experience a tight and sore chest post-surgery and other forms of pain, such as; shooting and tingling pains; burning sensations; and numbness in the affected surrounding areas. These side effects often occur between one and two weeks after the surgery, with the pain gradually decreasing after the first few days.

There are simple solutions for treating any pain and scarring that occurs post-surgery.

Managing post-surgery pain

After surgery, the plastic surgeon will be able to help manage any initial pain, using local anaesthesia or prescribing the patient analgesics including anti-inflammatory drugs. After the first couple of days, it should start to decrease, and over-the-counter painkillers are typically sufficient for managing the pain.

If severe pain continues, or the affected areas have swollen excessively, this can be a sign of infection. Contact your plastic surgeon immediately to ensure there is nothing wrong.

Managing post-surgery scarring

Post-surgery scarring is inevitable. Your surgeon will need to make incisions to remove the tumour and any surrounding breast tissue for reconstruction. Oncoplastic breast surgery, however, is a much less invasive technique compared to mastectomies, and the placement of scars is prioritised throughout the procedure.

To help with scarring during the recovery period, make sure you wear a soft, non-wired bra in the following week, drink lots of water and eat plenty of protein to produce collagen.

For more information on how to manage post-surgery pain and scarring, read our full guide here.

What should you know about follow-up radiation therapy?

After any type of breast conserving cancer surgery, radiotherapy is typically recommended to remove any remaining cancer cells and to reduce the risk of them coming back post-surgery. Typically, patients will have to wait between three and eight weeks (depending on the type of breast conservation surgery) so that there is enough time for the wounds to heal. Then, they will undergo radiotherapy for a further three weeks.

Oncoplastic breast surgery

For oncoplastic breast surgery, radiotherapy must be carried out after the reconstruction. No synthetic materials are used, as the patient’s natural tissue will be used for cosmetic purposes. This means it is usually very safe to undergo radiation therapy.

If you are looking for more information on follow-up radiation therapy, read our full guide here.

Tips for recovering from oncoplastic breast surgery

During your recovery after oncoplastic breast surgery, there are a number of things you can do to make this period of time much easier.

  • Wear a comfortable support bra.

  • Avoid wearing tight clothing.

  • Limiting your movements – such as pushing, pulling and lifting.

  • Taking steady walks – once the initial severe pain has worn off.

  • Avoid sitting for long periods.

  • Avoid sleeping on your side – try sleeping on your back with your upper body elevated.

  • Maintaining a healthy diet and staying hydrated.

Make sure you consult with an experienced plastic surgeon who can provide further guidance and advice for post-oncoplastic breast surgery.

Find out more information on what you can do during your recovery period here.

How Stephen McCulley can help

The Stephen McCulley team are experts in oncoplastic breast surgery and understands the benefits of combining treatment with plastic surgery and reconstruction. To find out more information or have your questions answered, get in touch with Stephen McCulley today.

Frequently asked questions

Who is eligible for oncoplastic surgery?

Mammaplasty type of oncoplastic breast surgery is an option for cancer patients with enough breast tissue after the tumour is removed. They will be able to be treated by breast conserving methods, with the remaining tissue used to reshape the breast.

Those with smaller breasts may require a different type of oncoplastic surgery where tissue from outside the breast is moved in to fill the defect. These are chest wall perforator flaps. Make sure you consult with your doctor or a specialist surgeon, like Stephen McCulley, for more information.

Can men get breast cancer?

Although most patients are women, there are rare cases of men being diagnosed with breast cancer. A UK man’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is around 1 in 870; where typically the tumour grows in the small amount of breast tissue behind the nipples.

If the cancer is spotted early, there is a higher chance for a cure. Treatment for male breast cancer includes removing the breast tissue (mastectomy) and in some cases, oncoplastic techniques to reconstruct the breast area and nipple.

Where will your scars be?

As reconstruction and plastic surgery techniques happen simultaneously with treatment, the scars will be strategically placed to ensure a more aesthetically pleasing appearance afterwards.

For therapeutic mammaplasty, the scars are similar to breast reduction with scars around the nipple, vertically down and if needed underneath the breast making an anchor shape scar.

LICAP, LTAP and TDAP flap treatments result in scars along the side of the chest and back; hidden out of sight by the bra strap and arm.

Find out more about what breast surgery scars will look like here.

What is the benefit of having oncoplastic surgery at the same time as reconstructive surgery?

One of the main advantages is that this requires only one operation. Consequently, this means that you will only be going under anaesthesia and the recovery period once. It also allows, in larger breasts, bigger margins of tissue to be removed around the cancer which can reduce incomplete margin rates.

It can also make radiotherapy easier and more effective for those with large breasts. Find out more about follow-up radiation therapy here.

Related content

Understanding Oncoplastic Breast Surgery | Stephen McCulley

Comparing Oncoplastic Breast Surgery and Mastectomies

Oncoplastic Surgery Guide | Pros & Cons of Breast Conservation