Almost always, breast cancer involves some type of surgery, and scars are a normal part of your healing process. Scars that form after lumpectomies may involve only part of the breast, or you may have larger scars from a mastectomy procedure. Radiation therapy can also leave scars, ranging from temporary sunburn-type marks to radiation fibrosis or thickening of the tissues. Scars are inevitable and most people look to diminish the appearance as soon as possible.
Minimize Scarring with Preventive Measures
Preventing infection after surgery is one of the most important ways to limit scarring. Carefully following your doctor’s instructions post-surgery, keeping the incision site as clean as possible, and not smoking will help you accomplish this. Exercise also helps with scar healing; brisk walking increases circulation, bringing lots of healing oxygen and nutrients to the area and carrying away waste products. Chemotherapy and surgery can be exhausting, so if you can only manage five minutes at first, that’s fine – you can work your way up to an hour or so a day as you feel able, but be sure to get clearance and guidance from your doctor before you start.
Another way to minimize scarring is to massage the area after surgery once the skin has healed. This increases blood flow to the area, promotes healing, and keeps the scar soft. Professional massage may be even more effective. The vigorous massage techniques used by physical therapists, in addition to improving the aesthetic appearance of scars, can help relieve pain and feelings of tightness in the surgical area. Incidentally, yoga and stretching exercises are other good ways to relieve pain and promote healing. Once again, be sure to get your doctor’s “OK” before starting.
Helping Scars Heal
Fortunately, there are effective and simple topical scar remedies available. Silicone gel has been shown to have a dramatic lessening effect on the appearance of scars. You can apply it to the scar and wear it under clothes, and it will work around the clock to reduce the color and texture of scars by up to 80%. Silicone works by promoting hydration in the area, regulating collagen production, and reducing the itching and other discomfort scars can cause.
Aloe Vera is another ingredient to look for in a scar treatment –or to use alone. By forming a protective layer and introducing moisture, Aloe Vera has a host of benefits for the skin, and it is especially beneficial when it comes to scars. Its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties help with preventing infection and promoting complete healing. It strengthens the collagen structure in the scar, improves inflammation and pain, and its polysaccharides are thought to promote skin repair and growth.
Finally, Vitamin C can be consumed or applied topically and is able to help speed the healing process. Vitamin C supplements, moisturizers containing vitamin C, and scar treatment gels and creams containing Vitamin C or citrus ingredients can promote scar healing. Eating fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, apricots, grapes, and apples can also have a positive effect.
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