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Breast Cancer Surgery Part 3: Things to Have Before Surgery

Some must-have items for breast cancer surgery.


Editor's Note:

This blog is a part of a series written by a local breast cancer survivor, Rui Sasaki.

Rui shares a number of items that would be useful for preparing for breast cancer surgery. Some of these items are available for free through our CARE Closet program. We encourage you to look through the catalog here.

Click here for other articles in the series.


Part 3: Things to Have Before Surgery

I definitely fell down the internet rabbit hole. There are tons of people capitalizing on breast cancer, so it’s easy to think that you MUST buy these things to prepare for your surgery. In the end, I bought some things, and here is a list that I found helpful.

1) Mastectomy Shirt

This is a definite must-buy item. I bought 2 so that one could be washed. Remember the Jackson-Pratt drain? The tubes come out of your body and end in a pump that cannot be left free-hanging. These shirts have pockets in them to place the device. I lived in mine for about 4 weeks. They are also front buttoning - after a mastectomy, you won’t be able to lift your arms up over your head (no t-shirts). Read the website’s description and email the creator if you have questions. She was very helpful when I reached out. And definitely buy one size larger than you normally would.

2) Pink Pocket

This is an alternative to the shirts above. You can attach these to the front buttoning shirts you already have. They are also more cost-effective.

3) Front Closing Mastectomy Bra

There are a lot of options out there. Key things to look for are front closing (because you won’t be able to lift your arms or reach backward) and no underwire. And if you opt not to have immediate reconstruction or have only one breast removed, these bras allow for prosthetics.

4) Wedge Pillow

When I was able to move off the couch to my bed, I was still unable to lie down flat. This helped tremendously. Alternatively, you could try using a reading pillow or backrest pillow. Remember, when you are moving up, and off the bed, you can roll over to the left/right side first before sitting up.

5) Lanyard(s)

You’re going to want to take a shower at some point. Mastectomy shirts aren’t waterproof, and you need a way to secure the drains while you are bathing. I hung a lanyard over my head and used safety pins to attach the drains to the lanyard to keep them from swinging around and getting wet. You can buy them online, or if you have anything comparable that works too.

6) Shower Stool

Please believe me when I tell you to invest in one of these. I was in so much pain I did not have the strength to stay standing in the shower. Also, for about 2 weeks after surgery, you CAN NOT get the surgery site wet. It helps tremendously to have a stool to sit on and ask your loved one to help you wash your hair. This also came in handy after my other surgeries.

7) Cup with Straw

It’s the little things that you might not think about. Lifting your arms to do anything will be excruciating. But it’s important to stay hydrated. I usually have my go-to reusable water bottle, but it was too heavy, and the motion to drink was too painful. So my lovely boyfriend bought me a cup with a straw so that I could easily drink water. Try to find something lightweight.

8) Back Scratcher

You might laugh, but I am quite serious about this one. You won’t be able to move your arms back behind you for quite some time. I got tired of scratching my back on corners like a bear on a tree.

9) Ice Gel Packs

These help you manage swelling and pain. If you can find the soft squishy ones, they will feel much better.

10) Heating Pad

This also came in handy for the dull aches and actually was helpful throughout my cancer journey.

One item that I purchased that I did not need was a chest pillow. The same lady that makes the mastectomy shirts sells these, and I bought one. But in the end, I didn't really need it. When I was recovering, and even now, it is comfortable to have a pillow to hold while I sleep, but a squishy pillow works just fine.



mastectomy: breast cancer surgery that removes a breast. Return to article


The views and opinions of our blog writers represent their personal views and opinions and not those of Breast Cancer Hawaii. Through our blog, we merely seek to give individuals creative freedom to share their personal experiences. Do not rely on this information as a substitute for a professional's medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.


Rui Sasaki is a breast cancer survivor and volunteer with Breast Cancer Hawaii. She got involved with the organization hoping to help women in Hawaii by sharing her cancer journey. She also just accepted a position working for a medical group on Oahu and hopes to do better for the community.


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