What to Pack for Your Breast Surgery Hospital Stay

A woman being wheeled into surgery.
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When you are scheduled to have breast surgery, you need to pack the correct things before you leave home. Whether you are having an outpatient procedure, such as a breast biopsy or a lumpectomy, or an inpatient one, like a mastectomy or breast reconstruction, bringing the appropriate belongings and documents can help ease the stress of your surgery.

Paperwork

Irrespective of the type of surgery you are having, there will invariably a lot of paperwork to complete at the hospital or clinic. These typically include an outpatient or inpatient admission form, a consent to treatment form, and, in some cases, a power of attorney form (which assigns medical decisions to someone you know in the case of an emergency).

There will be also medical history form you'll be asked to complete. You will also be queried about specific drugs you may be taking, including anticoagulants ("blood thinners"), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory inhibitors (NSAIDs) that can potentially interfere with surgery.

To ensure a smooth admissions process, you will want to bring the correct ID, insurance details, and any personal or medical information relevant to care. Even if your procedure is considered minor, it wise to bring the legal documents needed to direct medical decisions if you are unable to do so yourself.

Among the cards, documents, and paperwork you need to bring to hospital admissions:

  • Personal identification (such as your driver's license or a government-issued ID)
  • Your insurance card (whether for Medicare, Medicaid, or personal insurance)
  • Credit cards and/or a checkbook (if you intend to pay out of pocket or are asked to pay copay/coinsurance costs upfront)
  • Financial assistance cards (including government medical assistance programs, patient assistance programs, or pharmacy discount programs)
  • A copy of your advance directive (such as a living will, patient advocate form, or durable medical power of attorney)
  • A list of current medications (including their names, strength, and frequency)
  • A list of allergies and medical conditions (so you don't forget anything)
  • Names of your primary care doctor and specialists (including their contact details)
  • Emergency contact information (including work, cell, and home numbers)

Personal Belongings

When packing a bag for your hospital stay, start with the necessities before adding creature comforts. Since you may not have all that much space to store your belongings, try to avoid overpacking. You can always pack a second smaller bag with the things you'll need after the surgery and ask a friend or family member to bring it once you are back in your room.

Among the essential and useful things to pack for a hospital stay:

  • Your regular medications (packed in a pillbox rather than individual bottles)
  • A recovery "brobe" (a combination robe and bra designed for breast surgery that has built-in pockets for surgical drains and ice packs)
  • A loose buttoned shirt (since you may not be able to pull a T-shirt over your head)
  • Loose-fitting drawstring pants
  • A front-closing support bra (ask your surgeon in advance which is best for you)
  • Non-skid slippers (to keep your feet warm and prevent accidental slips)
  • A shower belt or lanyard (specialized devices you wear around the waist or neck that collects fluid from the surgical drain during a shower)
  • Safety pins (to help keep the surgical drains in place)
  • A small soft pillow (both for comfort and to keep the seatbelt from pressing into you on the drive home)
  • Eyeglasses or contact lenses (although eyeglasses may be preferable since you may not be able to wear contacts immediately after surgery)
  • Reading glasses
  • A battery-powered toothbrush (since you may be not able to move your arm much after the surgery)
  • Toothpaste
  • Disposal dental flossers (which require only one hand)
  • Dry shampoo (since you may not be able to shower for a couple of days after surgery)
  • Face and body wipes (a great way to freshen up without having to shower)
  • Deodorant (although you may need to avoid the armpit area following surgery)
  • Earplugs and an eye mask (to aid with sleep)
  • Entertainment (including crossword puzzles, books, or tablet for videos and music)
  • Power cords and battery chargers (for your cell phone, laptop, tablet, and other electronics)
  • Earbuds or earphones
  • A large insulated water bottle (to keep hydrated without having to fill a small glass repeatedly)
  • Healthy snacks (like trail mix, fresh fruit, dark chocolate, or granola bars)
  • Sugar-free breath mints or strips

What Not to Pack

As a rule of thumb, avoid bringing valuables with you to the hospital or clinic. Even though there may be locked storage, it is usually easier and safer to keep valuables—including jewelry, credit cards, and personal electronics—at home. If you're scheduled to stay in hospital, you can ask a friend or family member to bring whatever valuables you need when they visit.

A Word From Verywell

The very thought of having breast surgery can make you feel anxious and out of control. In some ways, packing gives you back some of that control by providing you things that are not only familiar but allow you to manage independently.

While you should definitely pack things that give you comfort and reassurance, pay extra mind to those items specifically designed to help you recover from breast surgery. Doing so can alleviate many of the frustrations encountered during recovery and provide you a stronger sense of self-determination.

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