17 Things You Need for Reconstructive Breast Surgery | ITC

17 Things You Need for Reconstructive Breast Surgery

17 Things You Need for Reconstructive Breast Surgery

“How will I ever figure out what I need before my reconstructive breast surgery?”

Let’s make a list by gathering all the best tips together in one place. A checklist will ease the tsunami of thoughts that flood the mind before any major surgery. Hopefully by making this list it will help create a feeling of comfort and control by being as well prepared as possible.



#1 Recovery Time

reconstructive breast surgery

Know the recovery time for your type of reconstruction. Make arrangements. It may help to allow a little extra time, especially if your job is strenuous or involves heavy lifting. Check out our article on long-term support for breast cancer, too. It might be helpful.


#2 A Caregiver

reconstructive breast surgery

You will need someone to help out, a caregiver of sorts. If you are living by yourself you need to arrange for rides to and from the hospital, to follow up appointments and whatever errands you might need run during recovery. Make a list of all the things that will need to be done. Coordinate and delegate all the responsibilities for your kids, pets or significant other. See if Cleaning for a Reason or a similar company that provides free housecleaning for breast cancer patients, is available near you.


#3 Completed Paperwork



Take care of the household things like cleaning and paying bills before going in for surgery. This is also a good time to finalize insurance or any financial arrangements for surgery. If this is a confusing topic for you, we’ve got some great articles about insurance for breast reconstruction that might be helpful to you. The linked one explains all the terminology, and contains links to further resources.


#4 Freezer Meals


Arrange or prepare and freeze meals, at least one to two weeks worth. Alternatively, this may be a good time to splurge on a meal delivery plan, such as Blue Apron. Here are some tips for healthy eating after breast reconstruction. Consider sharing them with friends and family who are looking for ways to help.


#5 Healthy Circulatory System


Quit smoking (at least temporarily)! It constricts blood flow and interferes with healing. Some surgeons recommend as much as four weeks before surgery. Ask your surgeon to give you a recommendation regarding smoking and breast reconstruction.


#6 Drug-Free Body


Check with your surgeon about when and what specific over-the-counter drugs and vitamins you should stop taking.


#7 Up-to-Date Medical Records


Make sure you have scheduled lab tests and filled prescriptions, and that your medical records are up to date. On a related note, you might want to read up on how to manage breast cancer paperwork, too!


#8 Well-Stocked Hospital Bag


With your surgeon, make a “surgery shopping list” of what you will need to have on hand . For example, a few practical items like a good skin cleanser (such as this one). You can use it one to two days prior to your surgery. It can help decrease the chance of infections. You may want to keep on hand an antibacterial, unscented foamy soap for after your procedure. It’s pretty gentle to wash with and still gets everything clean. Or look at soaps made for babies, as they are made for more delicate skin. Here’s one we love. Pick up some bacitracin or polysporin antibiotic ointment and some q-tips. Generic is fine and cheaper. Pain medication can be constipating so check with your surgeon for recommendations on what you can take to prevent constipation. 


#9 Comfy Recovery Seat


A recliner or comfortable chair and a few extra pillows to put underneath your knees and have around when you sleep may help keep you comfortable after surgery. Also a pillow for the car ride home.


#10 Open-Front Tops


Make sure that you have a few shirts that button or zip up the front, as well as pajamas that button up the front to wear after surgery. It will be difficult to put clothes over your head at first.

You may find a specialized shirt, such as this one which has clips for drains, to be useful.


#11 Special Bra

Your physician may recommend a special bra. Ask if you need a prescription for the bra. It’s possible your insurance company will cover the cost of a bra.


#12 Detachable Shower Head


A detachable shower head may make post-op showering easier.


#13 Measuring Cup for Drain Bulb Liquid


If you will have drains, put a measuring cup next to your bathroom sink so that you can easily estimate the amount of liquid that has drained into the collection bulb..


#14 Dressings


Don’t forget dressings for your incisions. Sometimes regular gauze sticks to the incisions. It has been suggested that maxi pads or panty liners can be used, because they are inexpensive and don’t stick to incisions like regular gauze.


#15 Important Phone Numbers


Keep all your important phone numbers programmed into your phone. Especially your plastic surgeon and your caregiver’s numbers.


#16 I.D. & Insurance


Don’t forget to bring your driver’s license and insurance card to the hospital. You won’t be wearing contacts, so bring your eyeglasses and an eyeglass case. If you’re having outpatient surgery you’ll want to have these in the car for the ride home. Oh, and crackers to eat for nausea on the ride home.


#17 Secure Valuables


Leave all your valuables, jewelry, credit cards, purse and money at home!


Hopefully we have created a helpful checklist to prepare you for reconstructive breast surgery. If you think of anything we have forgotten, or if you have a hot tip we haven’t listed, please feel free to add to this list by posting in the comments! Thank you!




  1. Avatar
    Lori stone July 18, 2016 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    A drain belt is crucial! Holds those drains so you don’t have to worry about them

  2. Avatar
    Robin Gardner July 19, 2016 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    Thanks…Great suggestion Lori! Hope we get some more suggestions we might have missed.

  3. Avatar
    Mikey March 7, 2017 at 6:17 am - Reply

    These are really amazing list. Thanks for sharing really helpful.

    • Sally Casey
      Sally Casey April 5, 2017 at 8:20 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome, Mikey! Remember that if you’re looking for anything in particular, you can always use the search tool at the top right of the webpage.

  4. Avatar
    Joy Grady-Hilton April 13, 2017 at 7:45 am - Reply

    Creativity sets in. You can use safety pins to pin the drain bulbs inside of a baggy shirt so they won’t be seen when you go out in public. I took a shoelace and pinned the bulbs to the end of them and hung them around my neck for bathing, flipped them to the back so I could wash my hair. You can drive when you get the drains out, unless you’re still taking pain meds. I had a bi-lateral and took them for two days. That’s it. Some may have to take longer, it depends on you! I would suggest to get a camisole for sleep wear with interior pockets for the bulbs so you can sleep without laying all over the tubes. They tubes are long. April 24, 2017 I will 4 years out from diagnosis.

    • Sally Casey
      Sally Casey September 13, 2017 at 7:18 pm - Reply

      Great ideas, Joy! Thank you!

  5. Avatar
    Patty April 2, 2018 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    My sister sent me a drain holder it is like an apron with two pockets the drains fit in the pockets and they don’t move around.

    • Sally Casey
      Sally Casey April 19, 2018 at 12:01 am - Reply

      How thoughtful of her! Was it homemade or from a particular company?

  6. Avatar
    Joy Butler April 6, 2018 at 3:10 am - Reply

    After a reconstructive breast surgery, it is a must that we focus on a faster recovery. With your list, I can say that these tips will really help particularly with number 6 and 7. When we stop taking medicines, our body will be free from over-the-counter drugs while having an updated medical record will let us know of our body condition.

    • Sally Casey
      Sally Casey April 19, 2018 at 12:07 am - Reply

      Glad you found it helpful, Joy!! We at ITC spend quite a bit of time interviewing patients and experts, and doing research of our own. There are so many things about breast cancer and reconstruction that patients wish they had known before it happened to them. One of our goals is for every breast cancer patient to know the options and resources available so as to make informed, confident decisions.

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