How I spent my Monday afternoon (aka, plastic surgery and mastectomy scars)

Most of you have probably never seen a mastectomy scar. And you’re not fully seeing them now, as these are bandaged. I am also wearing a compression sleeve for lymphedema (my left arm).

Although almost half of mastectomies do not involve reconstruction, it turns out that too many of these surgeries do not leave the woman “flat.” It’s highly unlikely that the scars will be “flat” if the patient isn’t savvy enough to use that word pre-op. I didn’t know.

There are lots of explanations for visually butchered bodies.

One is that breast surgeons often leave some excess skin “in case you change your mind.” There are a non-trivial number of surgeons who refuseĀ to perform bilateral mastectomies, per stories in breast cancer groups.



Another is because the skill required to remove diseased and cancerous tissue is not the same skill required to create aesthetically pleasing scars.

And although plastic surgeons are routinely in the operating room when reconstruction is on the menu, they are NOT in OR when a woman does not want reconstruction. This. Needs. To. Be. Remedied.

First, my right side (left side of image).

This incision goes under the arm. Dr. Neligan removed excess skin that bulged under the arm, called a “dog ear” (no I don’t know how it got that name). He has made this area “flat” which means I will no longer feel it press against my underarm when my arms are by by side.

The right side mastectomy scar, itself, was basically flat from the get-go, although it’s on a diagonal if you start from the left underarm. For someone who can see a picture that is out of square by an eighth-of-an-inch, I found this tres annoying. But I don’t ‘see’ it, really, except in a photo. Dunno how the mind blocks this.

Second, middle.

I had two cleavage “bumps”. They drove me batty, psychologically. They also collected lymph, which bothered me physically. This area now appears to be “flat”. Fingers crossed that it will no longer collect lymph.

Third, left side scar.

It’s a mess (lumpy, ugly – I call it mountains-and-valleys) but there isn’t much we can do about it because the skin has been subjected to radiation. This excess skin led one doctor (late 2017) to ask me if I was going to have reconstruction. That was my first clue that my surgeon and I were not speaking the same language.

Last, the left side dog ear is smaller than it was. Dr Neligan removed most of it in May when he performed my LVA.

I know that may be hard to believe, based on that lump that shows. But that bulge is mostly around the back, not directly under the arm, so I don’t feel it (much). And it is breast fat that, had I still had breasts, would be pulled forward by their weight. This left-behind-fat seems to be common in those of us who are busty. DO NOT ASK ME TO EXPLAIN WHY THERE IS NONE ON THE NON-CANCER SIDE.

NOTE, originally posted to our F&F Facebook group.
FYI, my scars look good compared to many I’ve seen in my breast cancer groups.

I consider this post a public service and I hope that Google/Bing algorithms will serve it up when women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer are trying to learn about mastectomies. I wish I had read something like this.

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