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, it's helpful to carefully consider what to pack before you leave for your procedure. Whether you are having an outpatient surgery, 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 the process and help you stay as comfortable as possible in recovery.

Paperwork

Irrespective of the type of surgery you are having, there will invariably be a lot of paperwork to complete at the hospital or clinic. This typically includes 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).

You will also be asked to complete a medical history form. With this, you will need to indicate specific drugs you may be taking, including anticoagulants (blood thinners), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory inhibitors (NSAIDs), which can potentially interfere with surgery.

To ensure a smooth admissions process, you will want to bring the correct form of ID, insurance details, and any personal or medical information relevant to care. Even if your procedure is considered minor, it is 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, as well as their contact information
  • 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. Generally speaking, plan to stay in the hospital for three days for a mastectomy and up to five if breast reconstruction surgery is also performed.

Among the essentials that can aid in your recovery from breast surgery are:

  • 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-fitting, button-down shirt, since you may not be able to pull a T-shirt over your head
  • Loose drawstring or elastic-waistband pants that are easy to pull up and down with one hand
  • A front-closing support bra: Ask your surgeon in advance which is best for you.
  • 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 your surgical drains in place
  • A small soft pillow both for comfort and to keep your seatbelt from compressing your chest on the drive home
  • A battery-powered toothbrush, since you may be not able to move your arm much after the surgery
  • Disposal dental flossers to allow for one-handed flossing
  • A water bottle with an extra-long straw, so you won't have to lift your arm unnecessarily during recovery

Other general items that are helpful for any hospital stay:

  • Your regular medications (packed in a pillbox rather than individual bottles)
  • Non-skid slippers to keep your feet warm and prevent accidental slips
  • Eyeglasses or contact lenses, although eyeglasses may be preferable since you may not be able to wear contacts immediately after surgery
  • Toothpaste
  • Dry shampoo: 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
  • Entertainment: Crossword puzzles, books, or a tablet for videos and music
  • Power cords and battery chargers (for your cell phone, laptop, tablet, and other electronics)
  • Earphones
  • Healthy snacks, like trail mix, fresh fruit, dark chocolate, or granola bars)
  • Breath mints or strips

If space storage space is at a premium (and it usually is), pack one bag with your immediate essentials and a second bag with a fresh change of clothing that a friend or family member can bring when they visit. Used clothes can then be taken home for washing.

As a rule of thumb, avoid bringing valuables to the hospital. 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.

A Word From Verywell

Packing seems like a simple thing and, comparatively speaking, it is. But, in some ways, it gives you back some of the control you may be feeling you are lacking as you head into surgery. Aside from ensuring that you'll have things familiar and important to you, some items will help you manage more independently after your procedure.

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