Bathing and Showering after Mastectomy
The No-Shower Period
Washlet Toilet Seat
Hand-Held Shower Spray
During this time, it is also comforting to have a way to help clean your private areas. There are several ways to accomplish this during the no-shower period:
A simple, inexpensive way is to use a squirt bottle that you have designated as the sole purpose for this use. You can fill it with warm water; moisten the area, soap up with a mild cleanser, then squirt to rinse.
You can purchase an inexpensive sitz bath that is placed on the toilet seat whereby you can then wash your bottom as you sit. The sitz bath is filled with warm water, but note that you will need help to do this since you cannot lift something as heavy and awkward as this. The sitz bath gets heavy when filled with water, and it is an awkward stretch to place it on the toilet and then spill out the contents.
The Shower Shirt™ Option:
The Shower Shirt™ is a water-resistant garment designed to be worn in the shower so that surgical drains are protected from water. Although it is a pricey item, it provides invaluable freedom to shower freely with your drains. Plus, the reality is that most of us need follow-up surgeries and revisions, so it would be used for multiple surgeries. Even if you do not need drains in future surgeries, there are still restrictions to not get incisions/bandages wet for a specified time. Check it out at: TheShowerShirt.com.
A cleaning/toileting option that is extremely useful for those after surgery, as well as for seniors and the disabled, is a washlet toilet seat. I installed one of these in my bathroom when we renovated a few years ago, and it is a convenience that I would recommend to all and not just during recovery. The washlet has a heated water reserve that sprays warm water at the push of a button. It does need a grounded electric outlet near the toilet, so you may need a electrician for that. The actual hookup to the toilet is a T-valve that connects to the existing pipe between your water source from the wall and the tank. You would have to hire a plumber for proper installation. This option is pricy, but it is well worth the expense if this is possible for you.
Prior to showering you can ask a loved one or friend to wash your hair over the kitchen sink. You can comfortably lean over and support yourself against the sink. Lean on a rolled up towel for even more comfort.
Once your surgeon has given you permission to shower, you can celebrate the liberation. It feels so great to stand in the shower and feel the warm water! Be careful that you do not apply hard, direct water pressure on your chest. My surgeon recommended that I keep my back to the shower so the water pressure is not directed at your wounds.
Your first showers should be approached with caution since you will be removing your bandages and exposing your wounds. From my perspective, this is a time when you need to adhere to infection control safeguards. I used a gentle, antibacterial liquid soap in the shower. I bring in freshly-opened sterile gauze pads to use as washcloths on the wounds. Place a liberal amount of liquid soap on the clean gauze pad, and then gently wash your wounds with light strokes. Rinse well with the water. Be certain that you use a freshly-cleaned towel to pat-dry your wounds after showering. You will then let then air dry a bit before re-bandaging your wounds.
A detachable, handheld shower head is very helpful during this time. These specialty shower heads can be purchased for $20 to $30, and they are worth the money. Not only are they helpful after a mastectomy, it helps after other surgeries, as well. Even when you are healthy, a hand-held shower spray is convenient for personal washing as well as for washing and rinsing your tiles, tub and shower!
If you do not have a bench in your shower, you may want to consider purchasing a shower chair. It is soothing to just sit and enjoy the warm water, especially during the first few weeks.