The University of Arizona
Department of Surgery

After Surgery

Lumpectomy and Sentinel Lymph Node Dissection Discharge Instructions

On the day of surgery we will be removing the lump of your breast cancer (lumpectomy) and through a separate incision under your arm we will be taking out the 2-3 lymph nodes that drain your breast (sentinel lymph node dissection).

Wound Care

  1. You will have 2 incisions: 1) on your breast (lumpectomy) and 2) under your arm (sentinel lymph node biopsy).
  2. All of your stitches are buried under the skin and human ‘super glue’ is sometimes used to help hold the skin together.
  3. You can shower the day after your surgery and get your wound wet (it will be sealed by the ‘super glue’ or alternatively by steri strip dressings)
  4. You may have some bruising after surgery. This is normal.
  5. There may be a small amount of drainage from your wounds, this is usually normal and nothing to worry about. Place a dry gauze or bandage (available at any drug store) on the wound to absorb any drainage. 

For Pain

  1. Wear your bra as much as possible including to bed. The less your breast moves the less it will hurt.
  2. You may take Tylenol or Advil every 4-6 hours as directed on the bottle.
  3. You will be given a prescription for more severe pain. You can use it as needed, you will not become addicted to it when taking for surgical pain.


  1. If you would like, you may return to work the day after your biopsy.
  2. If you need a work excuse for the day of surgery or for any days thereafter, please let us know.

When to call the doctor

  1. If you have severe, uncontrolled pain at the biopsy site.
  2. If you run at fever of 100.5˚F or higher within a few days of the biopsy.
  3. If you have a large amount of drainage that is soaking the bandage more than once a day.
  4. If the area around your wound becomes red/inflamed.
  5. Make sure you schedule and attend all follow-up visits with your doctor.

Drain Care instructions

  1. When the drainage is less than 20cc in a 24-hour period for 2 days, please call the office and make an appointment to have the drain removed. If one of your drains is less than 20cc in a 24-hour period, you can have that one removed.
  2. Buy Bacitracin ointment, sterile dressing sponges (packages of 2), Q-tips and tape at any drug store.
  3. Be sure to wash hands thoroughly before handling the drain(s).
  4. You will be given a cup to measure the fluid.
  5. Open the valve (bulb will expand) and gently squeeze fluid from the bulb into the cup to empty it completely.
  6. Squeeze the bulb tightly in your hand and close the valve with the other hand (this reactivates the suction).
  7. Measure the fluid and record the amount.
  8. Keep a daily record (24 hours totals) of the fluid. Each morning empty the drain at the same time to get accurate 24-hour totals. Empty the bulb as often as needed but remember to record the amount each time. Good times to empty the bulb are when you get up in the morning, midday, and before bedtime or whenever the bulb is half to two thirds full.
  9. If you have more than one drain we want a separate total for each one.
  10. You can expect the drainage to first be bright red for 2-3 days, then turn pinkish and then turn clear amber in color.

Drain Site Care

  1. Hand Hint: Use ribbon or long shoestring tied around your waist to secure drain while taking your shower.
  2. After morning shower, apply Bacitracin ointment to the drain site with a clean Q-tip.
  3. Apply sterile dressing sponges to cover drain site incision. Secure tape.
  4. If you develop a rash around the drain site, stop applying Bacitracin ointment.

Call Your Physician if

  1. Drainage is less than 20cc in 24 hours for 2 days
  2. Red and painful around the drain site
  3. Fluid is cloudy

Make an Appointment

For the best breast surgery care in Tucson, Southern Arizona and the Southwest, you can make an appointment by calling us at (520) 694-2873 (CURE).