returning to work after breast cancer surgery

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Condition Recommended return to non-manual work Recommended return to manual work
Breast benign lumpectomy 1-2 days 2 weeks
Breast cancer wide local excision and sentinel node biopsy * 1-2 weeks 2-3 weeks
Breast cancer wide local excision or mastectomy and axillary clearance * 4-6 weeks 8-12 weeks

* Assuming no adjuvant therapy which can substantially delay recovery. Psychological impact of diagnosis can also have an impact on the motivation to return to work.


  • the information applies to general fitness to work for people below 60 years of age without other significant disability. This information is only a guide to doctors, who will need to consider the individual clinical circumstances when advising patients
  • multiple morbidities are likely to prolong recovery


  • Samuel AM, Wellwood JMcK. Fitness for work after surgery. In Palmer KT, Cox RAF and Brown I. (Eds) Fitness for Work 4th edn. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2007 pp 467-486.
  • (accessed 3/9/2013)

Last reviewed 07/2021