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Breast Cancer Surgery

Getting prepared

​Having breast cancer surgery can bring up many emotions and questions. You may wonder about pain, changes to your body, or future treatment. You may wonder how you’ll manage responsibilities at home or work. It’s common to have many feelings (such as anger, sadness, or hope), sometimes all in one day. Your healthcare team can help you find the support or answers you need.

Finances, insurance, and ​drug coverage

The cost of your breast surgery is covered by Alberta Healthcare. But there are other costs that go along with your cancer treatment(s) that you may not have thought of. For example:

  • How long you’ll need to be off work for surgery and recovery.
  • Your insurance coverage for some of the medicines used for treatment.
  • Extra costs such as parking and hotels.

You may be able to get help to pay for some of these costs. If you have concerns, it’s important to speak to your healthcare team right away. They may be able to help you find the supports you need.


  • Keep all of your treatment-related receipts (parking, travel, and hotels) and write the reason on the receipts. You may be able to claim medical costs when you file​ your taxes.
  • Ask your healthcare team what is covered. When your treatment plan is confirmed, and if you have Alberta Healthcare, most of your treatments will be covered, but there could be extra costs.
  • Call your insurance provider so you know what they cover and ask about the cost of extra coverage if you need it. Sometimes when you add medical coverage there is a waiting period before the coverage starts.
  • Extra coverage may be helpful to cover the cost of things such as prostheses, medicines, transportation, and physiotherapy.
  • Make a list of other costs such as childcare, lodging, and travel. Your healthcare team may be able to suggest services that cost less.
  • Ask to see a resource social worker to help you find government financial support, including tax credits and caregiver employment insurance.

Time off from work

How much time off from work you will need depends on the type of surgery and any other treatments you may have. If you are diagnosed with cancer, you may be offered systemic (chemotherapy, targeted therapy or hormone therapy) and/or radiation treatment. If this is the case, our doctors and nurses who specialize in these areas will meet with you to talk about possible treatment options and the length of time you might be off work.

This table is only a guideline:

Type of treatment

Approximate time off needed

Breast surgery (breast-conserving surgery or mastectomy without reconstruction)

2 to 4 weeks recovery

Breast surgery with reconstruction

6 to 12 weeks recovery

If you are having other treatment, you may need more time off for recovery.

Type of treatment

Additional time off for recovery

Systemic (IV) chemotherapy

4 to 5 months


Up to 5 weeks

Herceptin (targeted systemic therapy)

Up to 12 months

Your surgeon can provide a note for the time off you need for the surgery and recovery from surgery. If you need to have more treatment (systemic or radiation treatment), the oncologist managing your care will need to provide a note for the rest of the time off you need.

If you need a letter from your doctor for work, they may ask you to fill out some forms first.

Contact the Human Resources department at your workplace if you want to make a claim to either:

  • Your work’s disability insurance provider
  • Service Canada (Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits)

What else do I need to know?

  • Ask your employer what documentation they need you to complete.
  • Talk directly with your doctor about the forms you need completed and follow the instructions they give you.
  • Doctors usually cannot complete these forms during clinic hours, but will ask you to leave them to complete and pick up at another time.

Fertility and birth control

Fertility is the ability to get someone pregnant or to get pregnant and carry a child to a healthy birth. Cancer and cancer treatment can sometimes damage the reproductive organs such as the ovaries and testicles. These changes can have short-term or long-term effects on your fertility. 

Cancer treatment can cause changes to the reproductive organs like:

  • irregular periods, or it may stop you from having periods
  • premature menopause
  • decreased sperm quality, number and motility

Before you start your treatment, check with your healthcare team to find out what your options are for preserving your fertility.

Remember to:

  • Tell your healthcare team right away if you think you may be pregnant. Your surgery and treatment plans may need to be changed, depending on the type of cancer you have and the stage of your pregnancy.
  • Use birth control. It is important that you do not become pregnant while having treatment. The birth control pill is not recommended for breast cancer patients, so it’s important that you ask your healthcare team about other types of birth control you can use.
  • Think about your options for children in the future. If you want to preserve your fertility, you may need a referral to a fertility specialist. Talk to your healthcare team. A referral should be made early so it does not delay your breast cancer treatment.

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