How Is Your Health?

Breast-Conserving Surgery: Surgical Drains And Sutures

by Camila Davidson

Breast-conserving surgery, otherwise known as lumpectomy or partial mastectomy, removes the cancerous tumor while sparing as much non-cancerous breast tissue as possible. Although this type of surgical breast cancer treatment allows the patient to keep most of their breast, radiation therapy is typically required after surgery. In addition, people who get breast-conserving surgery are typically sent home with drains and sutures, also called stitches, that will need to be maintained. Here are some things you will need to know about your surgical drains and sutures. 

Surgical Drains

While surgical drains in your breast are sometimes removed prior to your discharge from the hospital, your physician may recommend that they remain in place until your first post-operative visit. In addition to your breast, you may also have drains under your arm.

The drain is attached to a plastic collection bulb that fills with fluid that is draining from your surgical wound. You will need to empty the drains a few times a day, or as directed by the discharge instructions provided to you by the healthcare provider. When emptying the fluid from your drain collection bulb, you will need to examine the contents. If the fluid becomes redder as the days progress instead of pinker, or if the fluid becomes green or has an offensive odor, call your surgeon right away because these may be signs of increased bleeding or infection.


Your surgeon will close your incision with sutures that will eventually dissolve, so there is no need for your doctor to remove them. If one of your sutures feels uncomfortable or if it is poking through your surgical wound, do not tamper with it. Instead, call your surgeon, who will inform you that the suture will be removed at your post-operative visit. If your wound was closed with staples instead of stitches, they will need to be removed during your office visit because staples do not dissolve.

If your suture line becomes red and inflamed, or if you experience severe pain, warmth over the affected area, green or yellow discharge, or if you develop a fever, chills, or muscle pain, call your surgeon. These signs and symptoms may mean that you have an infection. If your incision is infected, your physician will prescribe an oral antibiotic.

If you are anticipating breast-conserving surgery, consider the above items regarding your surgical drains and sutures. When proper in-home postoperative care is initiated, you may be less likely to develop complications such as local or systemic infections and permanent scarring. 

Contact your doctor if you have more questions about breast cancer treatment.