How can you take care of your skin after breast cancer surgery?


How can you take care of your skin after breast cancer surgery?


The recovery process following breast cancer surgery, such as a lumpectomy or mastectomy, is completely dependent on the patient. This is because it takes at least a year for the skin to soften and four to six weeks for surgical incisions to heal following surgery.

We've asked a renowned dermatologist, a wound care expert, and a breast surgeon to provide their best skin-care advice in the sections below. Continue reading to find out more about this crucial aspect of recovering well from surgery.

Ø Embrace bodily healing

Make it a mission to refrain from lifting, pressing, and tugging for many weeks after surgery to protect your skin, advice dermatologist Donna Hart, MD, of Austin, Texas, who was just diagnosed with breast cancer.

Your drains, which are "the thin tubes implanted in the chest and underarm that allow collected fluid to exit after surgery," according to Dr. Hart, are more prone to develop issues the more you move.

You should avoid applying any topical lotions in or around your sutures, she advises, even though your skin may appear purple, red, or bruised following surgery. You can immediately start applying petroleum jelly, Aquaphor, or an antibiotic ointment once or twice daily if your doctor advises it. Once the skin has completely healed, your doctor could advise using silicone gel to treat any wounds. Some silicone gel is available in strip form.

Since scar tissue is frequently extremely stiff, these gels aid in the scar's softening, according to the expert.

Avoid using antibacterial creams and ointments, such as Neosporin or Bacitracin, directly on the wounds.

Additionally, if you've received radiation, your recovery may be severely hampered. In this situation, make sure to go over skin-healing options, such as postsurgical gels, with your doctor.

Emollients can also be used to treat radiation burns and prevent radiation dermatitis, according to the expert.

Ø Watch out for your skin

Healing problems could occur after a lumpectomy, mastectomy, or even (though less frequently) a biopsy, according to Dr. Harold Brem, chief of the division of wound healing and regenerative medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and RWJ Barnabas Health in Newark, New Jersey. Dr. Brem is a professor of surgery at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. This might be the result of radiation exposure, an infection risk factor, or even an undiagnosed antibody problem.

Whatever the cause, inform your surgeon as soon as you see any skin changes. This includes the presence of pus emerging from the site or a blackened area, which may indicate skin necrosis (or insufficient blood flow to the wound).

Necrosis causes skin discomfort that is typically black or red, but in someone with dark skin, it may take on a purple change in hue, advises Dr. Brem. Always assess these changes in comparison to the opposite breast.

Act promptly, send your surgeon pictures of the affected skin through email, and if required, schedule a telemedicine session so he or she can view the affected area.

Additionally, Brem warns that although breasts are "favorable" for effective wound healing, there may be problems with the moisture that collects in the lower or underside of the breast next to the chest wall, which can result in fungus.

According to him, using antibiotics after surgery increases your risk of developing antibiotic resistance.

Fortunately, Brem says, some medications help speed up wound healing. These include topicals like Iodosorb, an antibacterial gel, and MediHoney, a gel wound and burn treatment. Other options include collagen therapies that support the formation of new blood vessels and the removal of damaged tissue from a wound, FlexHD Structural, a biologic made from human tissue, and even the possibility of receiving allograft tissue, the tissue that is transplanted from one person to another, to aid in your healing.

Your results will improve the sooner you report any wound issues. Depending on how complicated the problem is, you might need to visit a specialist.

You should be sure to consult a doctor who deals with wound issues frequently, advises Brem. You want to find the best expert to help you – as soon as you can. Most talented plastic surgeons usually don't see a lot of complex wound healing concerns.

Ø  Be kind to your skin

If you choose breast reconstruction with implants, you should watch out for problems including skin stiffness and thickness.

According to Lisa Schneider, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in New York City who specializes in difficult reconstructive and aesthetic procedures, such as lymphedema and breast surgery, this condition, also known as capsular contracture, happens because the rim of skin and fat around the implant is so thin and the implant itself is firm and made of nonliving tissue. "As a result, the skin and scar around the implant get tighter. You will constantly battle the skin's propensity to constrict and harden if there isn't healthy living tissue underneath.

Dr. Schneider advises waiting several months before putting any topical medication on your incisions to treat the skin itself.

She explains, "I constantly advise my patients to pamper that skin like a baby." Avoid perfumes, colors, and other irritants. On that skin, you definitely wouldn't want to use a scrub or a peel.

You should pad the region surrounding your drains to protect the skin there from pulling and tearing or pressure sores caused by the drain tubing pinching the skin.

"You can also pin your drains to your clothing," she advises, adding that she sends her patients home wearing a surgical bra with a compartment for their drains. Additionally, keep the skin as dry as you can, and for added comfort and support, think about tucking a square of a clean cotton T-shirt around the entry point for your drains.

After breast surgery, the skin is extremely sensitive, she claims. You should strive to handle the entire region as softly as possible.

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