Scar therapy: caring for your surgical scars after a mastectomy
People react to scars in different ways; for some, they're a stark reminder of pain, while for others, they're a celebration of survival and represent new life.
No matter what your scar means to you, it’s important you take care of it, to help it heal in the best way possible.
Keep it covered
Benefit: soft surgical tape helps to protect the delicate scar tissue from being pulled by clothing.
Choose: microtape from your surgeon – they’ll have probably have put some on your scar before you leave the hospital, and may have given you a roll for future use. Leave the initial tape on for 5 to 7 days then replace with new tape, gently washing and drying the area first. Stick to the 5 to 7 day cycle – changing more often than this could irritate your scar.
Don’t be afraid to shower
Benefit: keeps the area clean and less likely to become infected.
Choose: warm water for your shower, keeping the microtape on. Gently pat dry afterwards with a clean towel.
Moisturise the area regularly
Benefit: there is some evidence that applying certain creams reduces scarring by helping the healing process
Choose: vitamin E cream or natural oils like castor or bio oil. Gently dab the scar, as required.
Wear soft clothing
Benefit: initially you’ll find that your scars are very sensitive, wearing soft, loose clothing will keep you feeling comfortable.
Choose: non-underwire bras, silky cushions, camisoles, boob tubes, shawls and front-opening tops. Clothing that you can step into is also a good idea as it’ll let you keep your arms down as much as possible. (Lifting your arms could pull on the scars, which can be painful.)
Don’t pick at the glue
Benefit: some surgeons choose to use surgical glue to seal wounds (rather than stitches) and some people find this more comfortable but, over time, the glue can become hard and flaky.
Choose: a single layer of microtape over the rough edge of the glue. This will stop the glue catching on your clothing and take away the temptation to pick at it, which could disrupt the scar or even cause it to pop open.
Things to be aware of:
Seroma, a build-up of fluid which causes swelling, can happen after a mastectomy. If it’s small and not causing discomfort, it can be left to resolve by itself, but if it’s larger and uncomfortable, or you’re worried about it, you should talk to your doctor so that it can be managed.
Keyloid scarring, is a type of scar that can form after a mastectomy. Typically the skin darkens and the scar becomes thick and bulky. The darker your skin is, the higher the risk of developing keyloids, which has led scientists to believe that it could be linked to genetics.
Hypertrophic scarring, is a widened scar that does not extend beyond the original boundaries of the wound. It usually stabilises and sometimes regresses over time, unlike a keyloid scar.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any swelling, unusual darkening of the skin around your scar, or anything else out of the ordinary.