How your chest looks after surgery

After surgery for breast cancer you may have some swelling and bruising. The surgery will cause a scar that will fade over time.

Your chest after surgery

It is common to have some swelling and bruising after your operation. This should improve after a few weeks, but tell your specialist nurse if it does not.

If you had an SLNB you may see the blue dye in your skin for a few weeks, but this is normal.


Before your operation, your surgeon or breast care nurse will explain where the scars will be.

A mastectomy scar is across the skin of the chest and may go up into the armpit. After surgery to the lymph nodes, the scar is in the armpit and should not be noticeable from the front.

To begin with, the scar will be red if you have white skin, or darker if you have dark skin. It will also be firm and slightly raised. Over time, it will flatten and fade. Everyone’s skin heals differently. If you have dark skin or fair, freckled skin, scars can take longer to settle and may be more noticeable for longer.

If you are worried about your scar, talk to your breast care nurse or surgeon.

Coping with a changed appearance

The first time you look at your chest after surgery you may want to have someone with you, or you might prefer to be alone. At first, the area may look swollen and bruised, but this will settle in a few weeks. In time, the scar will flatten and fade.

Changes to your appearance can cause concerns about your body image. This is the picture in your mind of how your body looks and works. These concerns can make you feel less confident and may affect your sex life.

It is not common for men to have reconstruction of their chest as currently, chest implants do not make a very realistic chest shape. But it may be possible to have tattoos or reconstruction of your nipple. You can ask your breast care nurse or surgeon whether this might be suitable for you.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our breast cancer in men information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    European Society for Medical Oncology. Primary breast cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of oncology 26 (supplement 5): v8–v30. 2015. 

    Gradishar WJ, et al. Breast cancer in men. UpToDate online. June 2018.

    Morrow M, et al. Chapter 79: malignant tumors of the breast. DeVita, Hellman and Rosenberg’s cancer: principals and practice of oncology (10th edition). Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. 2014.

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Early and locally advanced breast cancer: diagnosis and management. July 2018.

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Advanced breast cancer: diagnosis and treatment. Clinical Guideline 81. February 2009, updated August 2017. 

    Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network. SIGN 134. Treatment of primary breast cancer: a national clinical guideline. September 2013.


  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editors, Dr Rebecca Roylance, Consultant Medical Oncologist; and Dr Mark Verrill, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.