Unfortunately, scars are a natural result of mastectomies, breast reconstructions and other types of breast cancer surgeries. They can last months or even years after the procedure, depending on the kind of scar it is. Besides their cosmetic appearance, they can also be painful, itchy or feel tight. Here we’ll provide some of the options you have for scar treatment and also some knowledge of how the body heals.
Types of Scars
Pale, flat scars are very common after a breast surgery; they might be swollen at first, but will become more pale as the tissue recovers in that area. Atrophic scarring goes a bit deeper since it occurs after fat is removed and there isn’t sufficient collagen to repair skin properly. These though are fairly uncommon after breast surgery. A hypertrophic scar will appear raised, red and thick from too much collagen production. Finally, keloid scars are the most serious type and can be difficult to manage due to excess collagen growing outside of where the incision was made. These are most likely to be tender or itchy.
Basic Scar Reduction
Before considering any special treatment, remember that sometimes, they just need time to heal on their own. In a normal healing process, 8 weeks to 22 weeks after surgery is the time when a scar begins to remove any excess collagen and it becomes less swollen and red.
Once your doctor says your scars are healed enough, one of the best things you can do is massage the area. Gently massaging it will bring oxygen and other vital nutrients for the tissue to repair even more over time. Another simple step you can take is to maintain a healthy diet in general and stay hydrated to promote skin regeneration. Vitamins A, C, protein and zinc especially aid in this.
Much like a massage, aerobic exercise also brings back proper blood flow for skin color to restore. Of course, you’ll want to consult your doctor to find out how much exercise you can do at each stage of recovery.
What kind of Scar Treatment is Right for You?
Any type of emollient oil or emollient cream should be effective- ingredients like lactic acid, citric acid and glycolic acid encourage dead skin cells to fall off. Although most of these creams are designed for scaly, irritated skin, some are more specific to treating burns, rashes and other abrasions. Overall, moisture is important for proper protection. If your breast is exposed to the sun at all, sunscreen should be applied to protect the skin from harmful UV rays.
Gels containing silicone have been proven to improve the appearance of scars; this study proved that silicone products provide 86% texture reduction, 84% color reduction, and 68% in the height of the scar. This kind of gel can come in prescription and over-the-counter forms, and are generally a great option for anyone post-surgery. Front Room carries a silicone patch that can be used to help with scar management after surgery. These patches come in different shapes and lengths to work with many wounds.
For hypertrophic and keloid scars specifically, steroid injections can be good at both flattening and reducing any pain or itching. Pressure treatment for these types can be helpful at flattening as well, specifically using a compression bra is ideal.
Keloids can also be removed with surgery, though it’s not a permanent solution as keloids tend to return more often than not. Laser treatment or cryotherapy are also options to consider, but are also invasive. Usually, cryotherapy works best when paired with corticosteroids injections and if the keloids are small. If it’s large enough, your dermatologist may recommend ligature, which involves wrapping a surgical string around the keloid to gradually cut it off.
Remember that though all these methods can be effective in their own way, you’ll still want to discuss with your doctor the severity of the scars and their recommendations. Taking the correct steps right after surgery is essential for preventing serious ones from forming in the first place.