Mastectomy scars can, unfortunately, be quite extensive. If breast reconstruction is not performed at the same time as the mastectomy, the resulting scars can be quite long, running from next to the breastbone to the armpit area. Along with restoring the size and shape of the breast, reconstruction also helps limits scarring when performed at the same time as the mastectomy. However, reconstruction can result in at least one additional scar, as tissue is often taken from the woman’s abdomen or another area of her body to recreate the breast. This results in scarring at the site of the tissue harvest.
Scars are not only a cosmetic concern. Some scars can cause pain, tightness, or itching. You will want to do everything you can to minimize the scarring caused by your mastectomy to enhance the way you look and feel.
One of the most important things you can do to minimize scarring is to prevent infection in the post-surgery period. Patients are often sent home from surgery with drains at the incision sites to remove excess fluids from the area. These drains are usually removed a few days later. Once this happens, you should keep the incision as clean as you can so that it can continue to heal fully. Follow your doctor’s instructions for bandage changing and cleaning the area. Infection will worsen your scarring, so avoiding it is an important first step in limiting scarring.
Massaging the area during the first year can help by breaking down scar tissue and improving blood flow. This helps soften the scar and also brings more oxygen and nutrients to the wound which can promote healing and reduce scarring. Be sure to get the “all-clear” from your doc before starting scar massage to ensure your incisions are ready.
It is also important to eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of fluids – mostly water – while your mastectomy scars are healing. This will help in several ways. First, the water will keep you hydrated, which means more moisture in your skin and at the site of the scars. Skin moisture improves healing. Some of the nutrients in what you eat can also work to lessen the appearance of your healed scars. Ingredients known to be helpful include the vitamins A and C, zinc, and protein. Finally, a healthy diet and proper hydration will promote overall health, helping you feel better faster after surgery.
Feeling better means you may feel more like exercising, and exercising is another way you can promote healing and effectively treat your mastectomy scars. Aerobic exercise also increases blood flow and improves healing. After a mastectomy, you may not feel like doing much at first. Even if you can only walk for a few minutes, that’s fine. Slowly build back up to a level of exercise that you and your doctor are comfortable with. The exercise will help your scar healing along by improving your circulation.
Also try a silicone-containing gel. Silicone has been shown to reduce the appearance of scars, making them lighter, flatter, and softer. Follow the instructions that come with the product you choose. Stick with the recommended frequency and duration of treatment for the best results.
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