It’s bad enough that when we have surgery following a breast cancer diagnosis our shape is going to change. We imagine being flat or disfigured. Adding to that are the scars that will also criss cross our bodies. There are some things we can do to help with that though. Here are tips for minimising your scars after mastectomy.
My Experience Minimising Scars
Before I had my breast surgeries, I had not had surgery before. In fact, the worst injury I had done was to slice open my finger as I was opening a tin of cat food. That required a whole two stitches!
Today that scar is barely even noticeable. Along with the childhood scars from scrapping my knees, and that one time I badly burnt my knuckle on the oven, they have all faded. But these were all minor compared to the two huge gashes I now have across my chest.
Once I got over the idea that I was going to have a double mastectomy, I started to think about the scars. Would it be them that I saw every time I looked in the mirror? Would they be that constant reminder of what I had lost?
I have inherited my skin type from my Dad. I am very pale, so redness stands out a mile. In fact, when it is cold (and I am often cold) my scars get a nice purple tinge to them – not a good look!
My Dad has had quite a few of his own cancer surgeries over recent years – he has Melanoma, which is the cancer I always expected to get! – and before my DMX he told me I just had to use Bio-Oil on my scars. It was the best thing he had come across and his scars had both faded well and were softer than previous scars.
I did some Googling then, because even if it is my Dad, I rarely believe just one person. I wanted to see what else was out there and what sort of results they were getting.
I was pleased to discover that while scarring is dependent on many factors, people with lighter skin tend to scar less. This might be the only positive thing I have ever found about my very pale skin. It certainly is not a good thing to have here under the harsh Australian sun. It also doesn’t conform much to that “bronzed Aussie” stereotype or look either.
Googling scar treatment was just overwhelming. There are so many different lotions and potions out there. Just take a look at the “scar treatment for surgical scars” search on Amazon. So many things! How do we know exactly what to use, especially in those crucial early days? And when even do you start?
I looked for reviews and searched in Facebook groups. Sure, some people liked Bio-Oil, but just as many people swore by something else altogether.
By the time I went in for my DMX, I had done nothing about caring for my scars. I was convinced I was going to try some of the silicon scar tape, but I hadn’t got around to buying some yet.
At my appointment two weeks post DMX, my surgeon removed the tape covering my incisions and removed the last remnants of the stitches. I was healing really well.
And then he gave me instructions “start using Bio-Oil on the scars twice a day from now on”. I hadn’t discussed any scar treatment with him previously, so this was completely independent from my Dad’s recommendation.
On the way home from the appointment, we stopped into a pharmacy and picked up some Bio-Oil and I started using it that very night.
At first I would just put a little on, just over the scar area, rubbing it in just enough to stop in getting all over my clothes. Sometime in the following month (I can’t remember exactly how long after I started) I read somewhere that I should massage the scars too, so at least once a day I would massage each scar for ten minutes with Bio-Oil.
I carried on doing this right up until my exchange surgery, starting again when those bandages were removed two weeks later.
About six months later I felt a tiny lump, smaller than a pea, and of course I freaked out a little. My surgeon checked it and said it was fat necrosis – and that I needed to stop massaging so much. I had in my mind that I was going to keep it up for the first twelve months, but this stopped me in my tracks.
It’s now more than two years after my exchange surgery, so the scar on my right side has had that time to settle. I had my left implant swapped out with I had my nipple reconstruction, so that side is about nineteen months since my last surgery.
I still put Bio-Oil on my scars after every shower and I have no intention of stopping any time soon. My scars are now pale white lines and so soft that they can hardly be felt. Yes, I can still see them, but they are not the first thing I see. I do admit that nipples helped with that too.
There was a moment a couple of months ago where I caught a glimpse of myself as I got out of the shower. The room was dimly lit and I was just at the right angle, but I didn’t notice my scars at all. I was so impressed I just had to take a photo.
My Recommendation for Minimising Your Scars
So I’m now a raving fan of Bio-Oil! Of course it may not suit everyone as we all have different skin types but I certainly believe it’s worth trying.
It also has lots of other uses – stretch marks is a big one! That’s actually what I had heard it was for before I knew it was good for scars too.
My sister-in-law uses it daily on her face too. She had a lot of sun damage to her face a few years ago, and she has been using Bio-Oil to help along with some other products. She’s in her fifties now, and he skin looks better than it did in her thirties.
Here in Australia we can pick up Bio-Oil in pharmacies and supermarkets everywhere, so I assume it’s the same internationally too. But why not pick it up from Amazon – you don’t even need to leave your house and you could have it tomorrow!
Okay, now that I have finished fingerling over Bio-Oil, I thought I should at least mention some of the alternatives that other people have recommended. I clearly have not used these, but these might give you some ideas for your own research.
Other things for minimising your scars:
Silicon Scar Sheets – these strips are what I was thinking I would try before my surgery. I’ve seen lots of people say these worked really well for their scars.
BioCorneum Scar Treatment– this is another specific product I have seen recommended over and over. It’s a silicon gel, so I imagine it works a lot like the strips.
Vitamin E Oil – this one pops up a lot when reading about recommendations for scar treatment too. It’s such a good natural all rounder that has a multitude of uses
Good luck with your healing and minimising your scars. Please speak with your surgeon before going ahead with any of the ideas above, because they all have different ideas, timeframes and suggestions of their own – and they know your specific situation, I can only recommend based on my own.
Want to read more of my story? Try these posts
- My Bilateral Mastectomy with Tissue Expanders
- My Exchange Surgery – From Tissue Expanders to Implants
- Two Years Post Bilateral Mastectomy
For some breast cancer information, click through to these posts
- What to Take to Hospital for Breast Surgery
- Lumpectomy or Mastectomy: How to Choose
- Things No-one Tells You About Having a Mastectomy
Have you joined a breast cancer support group on Facebook but been completely overwhelmed by some of the posts? It’s fantastic that these groups are an open forum and all sorts of questions, worries and issues are addressed, but sometimes they can be too much. In fact sometimes they can be downright scary.
If you would still like to join a support group on Facebook but not be faced with some of the scarier aspects when you don’t want to see them, come and join Positive Breast Cancer Stories. Here we share positive stories, celebrate milestones and encourage each other rather than deal with the technical information >>
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