Surgery is usually the first treatment of choice for early breast cancer. Chemotherapy, targeted and hormonal therapy may be used before surgery (neoadjuvant therapy), or after surgery (adjuvant therapy). After surgery, radiotherapy is usually given.

Clinical Associate Professor Lim Geok Hoon, Head and Senior Consultant from the KK Breast Centre at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth roup, shares what you need to know about breast cancer surgery.

10 Ways to prepare for breast cancer surgery

In preparation for your breast/axilla surgery, you will need to do the following:

  1. If you are on blood thinning medications – Please let the doctor know and stop the medication as advised by your doctor.

  2. If you are still smoking – Please stop smoking in preparation for your operation.

  3. If you have any medical condition – These conditions should be optimised before your surgery. You may be referred to an anaesthetist for further review prior to your operation.

  4. If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, please kindly let your doctor know.

  5. if you are on any supplements / traditional Chinese medications – Please inform your doctor of the supplements / traditional Chinese medications you are taking. You may be advised to stop these medications prior to your surgery.

  6. You will be required to fast:

    • If you are admitted on the same day of your operation – Our staff will contact you one day before your operation to advise you on when to stop the consumption of food and drinks.

    • If you are admitted a day before operation – Our ward staff will inform you when to fast.

  7. On the day of surgery:

    • Do not apply makeup, nail polish or wear jewellery. Please leave your valuables or excessive cash at home.

    • Bring along a container for your spectacles or contact lens, if you are wearing them. Disposable underwear is preferred.

  8. You should still be able to undergo the breast surgery even if you are having your menses, unless there are other contraindications.

  9. An ink marking on your breast may be done just prior to your operation, to identify the side / site of operation. This ink marking will be removed after your operation.

  10. For some breast / axilla lesions which are not well felt, a wire / device may be placed into the breast / axilla on the day or days before the operation, to guide the surgeon to the lesion. This device will usually be removed during the operation.

10 Things to expect post-breast cancer surgery

  1. You will likely experience drowsiness and nausea – This is from the general anaesthesia and you will recover from it by the next day. If warranted, medications for nausea/vomiting can be given if needed.

  2. Pain is usually tolerable and can be relieved with oral analgesia.

  3. If there is a drain from the operation – Nurses will advise you on the drain care and you can return home with the drain. The drain will be removed a few days later in the clinic when the drain amount is low

  4. There is no specific dietary / food restriction but we advise a healthy balanced diet as much as possible.

  5. If you are on blood thinning medications, you can restart your blood thinning medications when advised by your doctor.

  6. Medical certificate will be issued which will excuse you from work. However, during this period, you should still be able to carry on with your activities of daily living and non-manual work, if you so wish, unless instructed otherwise.

  7. Non-strenuous exercise is possible after operation with the intensity adjusted to one’s physical fitness and comfort. We advise doing arm exercises that are prescribed by a physiotherapist.

  8. Wound care – we advise keeping the wound dry for the next few days post operation. The wound is usually covered with a waterproof dressing or a layer of glue which allows you to have shower after the operation. Should you encounter any issues with your wound or dressing, please call the KK Breast Centre for advice.

  9. Bra can be worn after the operation and we advise for a good support bra. In some cases of breast surgery, a special bra may be needed as advised by your doctor.

  10. There is usually an appointment to see the doctor in 2-3 weeks after operation. Prior to this, in some cases, there may be an appointment in a week’s time for our nursing staff to check your wound. Further treatment may be needed depending on the result of the removed breast / axilla specimen.

We wish you a speedy recovery!

Ref: K21