Coping With Breast Reconstruction Surgery and Scarring

Women undergoing treatment for cysts and breast cancer often need breast removal and breast reconstruction surgery. The scars left behind for these medical treatments may be long, wide, dark and prominent. While careful strategies in plastic surgery can minimize the scarring from a mastectomy and reconstruction, it is still visible. Scar treatment after the incision has healed can minimize the appearance of any scars associated with the procedure.


One of the latest advancements in technology is to use breast implants to reconstruct the shape and size of the breast tissue. Another option is to use the patient’s own tissue to create a flap or to use a combination of the two procedures. For cancer patients, reconstruction eliminates a variety of practical issues, such as irregular shape of the torso and the ability to wear comfortable clothing.


Women who have a single or double mastectomy may elect to have breast reconstruction surgery to re-create the size and shape of the tissue. Depending on each individual case, it can be done at the time of the breast removal or by using a temporary saline implant that is gradually filled and expanded over four to six months. Once the muscle tissue and skin have adjusted to the temporary implant’s size and shape, a permanent implant is surgically inserted, replacing the temporary implant. The two-step surgical procedure is more common. It is used for patients that may need radiation therapy or who have very tight muscles and skin in the area.


When using the tissue flap procedure, replacement muscle and tissue is removed from the patient’s lower abdomen, upper back, buttocks or thighs. This creates scars in two sites on the body; in the donor site and across the chest. General surgeons may not be accustomed to creating smaller and tighter scars in surgery, but plastic surgeons doing the procedure may have more success. The use of skin grafts and synthetic mesh helps the implants and tissue to stay in place. As the skin mends itself, natural collagen produced by the body will create a new layer of skin which joins together the skin at the incision, creating a scar. After the surgical incisions have healed and the tissue grafts have had a chance to take, Scarfade can be used on the scars to reduce redness and soften the new coarse skin. Twice daily use of Scarfade silicone scar gel has proven effective in breast reconstruction surgery and for donor tissue surgical sites. While Scarfade gel may discolor some clothing fabric, the silicone sheeting is equally effective at reducing scars and can be used under clothing without affecting the garment’s fabric.