5 Things to Expect: Mastectomy Scars
by Dr Ardeshir Bayat, a world-renowned wound expert and co-founder of Science of Skin
For many years, myself and my team at the University of Manchester have been studying the way the body heals itself. I began my career as a plastic surgeon, which is where I first became fascinated by the body’s ability to repair itself. Now my focus is on how science can help skin heal more efficiently and, in particular, how to reduce the appearance of scars.
We know that for many breast cancer patients, who have undergone a mastectomy, there is a lot of worry and fear over what to expect after the operation. What will their scar, or scars, look like, how will they feel when they first see the scar and will it hurt?
Many patients also talk about feeling guilty for worrying about their appearance after undergoing surgery, which may have saved their life. Do not worry, this is an entirely normal emotion and one that most people experience before and after their surgery.
Every patient is different, which means every scar will be different too. However, we have established a list of the 5 most common things to expect from a mastectomy scar:
- Your scars will usually be horizontal or diagonal across your breast. Most surgeons will try to position the scars so that they can be hidden underneath a bra once healed and won’t be visible under clothes.
- The scars may be raised, red or swollen at first. This is a normal reaction and will gradually settle and fade over time. However, if the scars continue to cause you any pain, or discomfort, then let your healthcare professional know.
- After your operation, you should keep the scars covered and dry for at least 48 hours. You can shower or bathe after 48 hours but the scars should remain covered for 7-10 days, or as long as your surgeon has directed.
- Never pick at any scabs that form as this will significantly worsen the appearance of the scars. The scab is protecting the new tissue, which is growing underneath. Although it may be itchy, you should also resist the urge to scratch too, as this will damage the new tissue and result in a more severe scar.
- Once the wound has healed over, consider using a specialist cream, such as Solution for Scars, which is scientifically proven to reduce the appearance of scars.
For many patients, looking at their mastectomy scar for the first time can be an extremely traumatic experience. This is a very common anxiety, which is faced by the majority of patients. Our advice is to take your time and wait until you feel ready and try to take comfort in the fact that your scar is a sign that your body is beginning to heal itself.
For more information on what to expect after a mastectomy Macmillan have a very informative page here.