Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Hidden Scars from Breast Cancer

Yes there are lots of hidden scars in breast cancer. I have discussed the emotional side a lot - which boils down to PTSD for some. But there is also the physical side. Every time you look at your body and see your cancer scars, you are reminded of  your cancer misadventure. Its only a scar that will fade over time but its still there.
Back in 1984, I found my first breast lump. Due to the limitations of surgery at the time, I had to have an excisional biopsy. And because of my medical history (three years after thyroid cancer) they had to be sure. (And if you are trying to calculate my age, I am still only 37). So I had a lumpectomy (aka excisional biopsy). And it was benign which was good. But it left me with a scar. A big fat red scar.

After surgery, I realized I had a bigger problem than normal in bathing suit shopping. I had this giant scar, 2" long, on the outside of my left breast that ran horizontally across toward my armpit. Bathing suit shopping is bad enough with the unflattering fluorescent lighting, holding your stomach in while you are trying to decide if it will fit when you really do lose those 10 pounds by June. Then you have to add in - will my scar show?

Seriously, it took me a good 10 years for the scar to fade and for me to stop worrying if  someone might see it sticking out the side of my bathing suit. It was a bit of vanity for me. But I already had a scar on my neck from thyroid cancer surgery that could not be covered up in a bathing suit. I really didn't need a second visible scar.

Now surgery is catching up to my bit of vanity. At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, they have pioneered breast cancer surgery with hidden scars.

"Traditionally, the procedure would place an incision directly over the tumor, making it very visible. But Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center now offers another option.

"The more we can make the scar smaller, or put it in a place that can't be seen, the better for the patient," said Dr. Ted James, chief of breast surgical oncology at the hospital.

He started offering hidden scar surgery here last year.

"What the hidden scar surgery tries to do is to place the incision in a less obvious or visible location. Under the breast is one location. You can also make it around the areola, that's another place where you can hide a scar, and if the incision is very high on the outer portion, we've actually gone through the armpit," James said."

"Hidden scar surgery can take a bit longer than traditional procedures, but recovery time is about the same."

A lot of progress has been made in treatment of breast and other cancers but I really do like the idea of taking into account the fact that the surgical scars can be a less prominent reminder of our cancers each time we look at our bodies.


Nancy's Point said...

Hi Caroline,
Very interesting and seems like a good option when feasible. Thanks for sharing about it. When I had my oophorectomy, the incision was made through the navel. Sort of the same deal, I guess. I have a lot of physical scars, but they aren't nearly as hard to deal with as the emotional ones.

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