Breast surgery can be performed for various reasons, ranging from cosmetic enhancements such as augmentation mammoplasty and lift mastopexy, to medical necessities like mastectomies or lumpectomies for breast cancer treatment. While these procedures can offer many beneficial outcomes, they often leave behind scars that can cause physical discomfort or distress. In many cases, scars can make the recovery journey more challenging. Fortunately, several strategies can help reduce the visibility and impact of these scars, enhancing the overall results of the surgery.
Specialist Plastic Surgeon Dr Jeremy Hunt has devoted his career to helping patients achieve the aesthetic outcomes they desire. He understands the physical and emotional toll that scars may impose. Dr Hunt’s compassionate care extends to all his patients, providing them with the information and support they need to confidently navigate their recovery journey.
Download Dr Hunt’s Guide to Breast Surgery
Standard Breast Surgery
Types of Breast Surgery Procedures
There are many types of breast surgery procedures, each with its own potential for scar formation. Breast Augmentation Mammoplasty involves placing implants to increase breast size, which can result in scars either around the nipple, under the breast crease, or in the armpit.
Breast reduction mammoplasty surgery is performed with the aim to reduce the size of large breasts, with scars forming around the nipple and down the lower portion of the breast.
A breast lift mastopexy procedure is performed to raise sagging breasts, and it commonly leaves a scar around the nipple, vertically down to the breast crease and along the crease itself.
For women who’ve undergone a mastectomy due to breast cancer, breast reconstruction surgery can be an option. This procedure often leaves scars, but their location can vary depending on the specific surgical technique used.
Surgical Approaches and Incisions for Breast Surgery
The type and location of incisions made during breast surgery significantly influence the appearance of scars. Some common surgical approaches include:
- Periareolar incision: An incision made around the edge of the areola, which is often used in breast augmentation mammoplasty, reduction mammaplasty, and lift mastopexy surgeries
- Inframammary incision: An incision made in the crease under the breast, often used in augmentation mammoplasty and reconstruction surgeries
- Transaxillary incision: This type of incision is made in the armpit, used primarily for breast augmentation mammoplasty
- Vertical or “lollipop” incision: Used in breast reduction mammaplasty or lift mastopexy surgeries, it involves an incision around the areola’s edge that goes down vertically to the breast crease
- Wise pattern or “anchor” incision: Often used in very large breast reduction mammaplasty or in mastopexies where the breast is extremely ptotic. The incision lies around the areola, vertically down the front of the breast and horizontally in the breast crease.
Factors Influencing Scar Formation
Scar formation after breast surgery can be influenced by various factors:
- Genetic predisposition: Some individuals are naturally prone to form more noticeable hypertophic or keloid scars
- Surgical technique: The plastic surgeon’s skill and the chosen surgical method can impact scar visibility
- Post-operative care: How well you care for the wound after surgery can significantly influence scar formation
- Lifestyle factors: Smoking and exposure to sun can exacerbate scar formation
- Nutrition: Good nutrition is vital for proper wound healing and minimising scar tissue formation
How to Prepare For Breast Surgery to Prevent Visible Scars after Surgery
Preparing for breast surgery with the aim of minimising visible scars is an essential part of your surgical journey. Here are some steps you can take:
- Choose an experienced surgeon: Choosing an experienced surgeon is crucial. They should have extensive knowledge of the best surgical techniques to minimise scarring and of proper wound care post-surgery
- Discuss the surgical approach: Talk to your surgeon about the type of incisions they plan to make
- Quit smoking: If you are a smoker, it’s highly recommended to quit at least a few weeks before the surgery. Smoking/vaping can slow down your recovery and increase the risk of visible scarring
- Preoperative consultation: Discuss with your surgeon any concerns you have about scarring, and learn about the strategies that can be implemented both during and after surgery to minimise scars
Download Dr Hunt’s Guide to Recovery
What to Avoid After Breast Surgery to Minimise Scars
Postoperative care is just as important as preoperative preparation when it comes to minimising scars after breast surgery. Here are some things to avoid to ensure the best possible outcome:
- Avoid stress on the incision site: Avoid any activities that could put stress or strain on the incision site, especially in the early recovery phase. This includes heavy lifting, rigorous exercise, and stretching movements that may pull at the sutures
- Don’t smoke: Smoking/vaping can significantly hinder the healing process and lead to worse scarring. It’s crucial to avoid smoking/vaping for several weeks post-surgery
- Avoid sun exposure: Protect your scars from the sun, as UV radiation can darken scars and make them more noticeable. If you need to go outside, wear protective clothing, or apply a strong SPF sunscreen to the scar area once it has fully healed
- Avoid picking at scabs or stitches: Picking at scabs or stitches can interrupt the healing process and potentially lead to worse scarring. If your stitches are causing discomfort, consult your surgeon rather than trying to handle it yourself
- Don’t neglect proper nutrition: Continue to eat a diet rich in nutrients that support healing and healthy skin
- Avoid dehydration: Keeping your body and skin hydrated can support the healing process, so try to avoid becoming dehydrated
- Avoid swimming and baths: Soaking your incisions in water can lead to infection and negatively impact wound healing. Stick to showers until your surgeon gives you the go-ahead
- Avoid alcohol: Excessive alcohol can impair wound healing, and can also interact with post-surgical medications. It’s best to limit or avoid alcohol in the weeks following surgery
Surgical and Non-surgical Scar Reduction Methods
Several surgical and non-surgical methods can be utilised to reduce scars post breast surgery:
Surgical methods include scar revision surgery, where the surgeon removes the scar and re-closes the wound, and fat grafting, which involves injecting small amounts of fat into the scar to minimise its appearance. The surgical methods to reduce or modify the appearance of scars can vary, depending on the type, location, and age of the scar, as well as other factors like the patient’s health and lifestyle. Here are two common surgical techniques:
- Scar Revision Surgery
In this process, the existing scar is surgically removed, and the skin is re-sutured to heal in a less noticeable fashion. This can be done through a few different techniques.
- Fat Grafting
Fat grafting, also known as fat transfer or lipofilling, can help improve the appearance of depressed or atrophic scars. This procedure involves collecting a small amount of fat from another part of the body (like the abdomen or thighs), processing it, and then injecting it into the scar area. The injected fat can help elevate the depressed scar, making it level with the surrounding skin surface and thus less noticeable. In addition, fat grafting can also help improve the scar’s texture and colour, making it blend better with the surrounding skin.
Non-surgical methods include:
- Topical treatments: Creams, gels, and silicone sheets can help in reducing scar visibility. Silicone sheets or gels are particularly effective as they keep the scar hydrated and protect it from excess sunlight, enhancing healing and minimising scar formation
- Laser therapy: This treatment can reduce scar thickness and redness. The laser breaks down scar tissue and stimulates the body’s healing process, leading to the formation of healthier skin
- Steroid injections: These are used for hypertrophic or keloid scars and can help reduce their size and alleviate discomfort
- Massage: Gentle scar massage can help break down scar tissue and improve flexibility, especially in raised or thickened scars
Remember, the most suitable scar reduction method depends on the type of scar. Therefore, it is always best to consult a medical professional or a trained plastic surgeon like Dr Jeremy Hunt for personalised advice on scar reduction. They can guide you through the process, ensuring you understand the expectations and results of each method.
FAQs about Scars after Breast Surgery
When is scar revision surgery needed?
- Scar revision surgery is usually considered when a scar causes physical discomfort or restricts movement, when the scar is aesthetically displeasing or causes distress, or when non-surgical methods have not been effective. Scars that have healed in a way that is noticeably misaligned with the skin’s natural tension lines, keloid scars (which are raised and extend beyond the original wound), or hypertrophic scars (which are thick and raised, but do not extend beyond the original wound) can often benefit from scar revision surgery.
Can scars from breast surgery be completely eliminated?
- While the goal of scar management strategies is to make scars as unnoticeable as possible, it’s important to remember that scars are a natural part of the body’s healing process. As such, they cannot be completely eliminated. Surgical and non-surgical methods can significantly reduce the appearance of scars, making them less noticeable and more aesthetically pleasing. The results vary depending on the individual’s healing capabilities, the location and type of the scar, and the treatment method used.
How long does it take for breast surgery scars to heal?
- Healing times for breast surgery scars vary from one patient to the other. In most cases, initial wound healing occurs within 2 weeks, during which time the incision site should be carefully protected. Over the next few months, the scar will typically become darker and harder – this is a normal part of the healing process. Over the next 1 to 2 years, the scar will usually soften and fade, although it may not completely disappear.
What are my options to get rid of scars after breast surgery?
- You have several options to manage scars after breast surgery. Topical treatments such as silicone sheets and creams, and injectable treatments like corticosteroids, can be used. For more noticeable scars, laser therapy or microneedling can be beneficial. Surgical options, such as scar revision surgery or fat grafting, may be considered for more severe or problematic scars.
Can natural remedies help reduce scars?
- Natural remedies can sometimes help with scar management, although their efficacy varies and they are typically less effective than medical treatments. Aloe Vera is known for its healing properties and can soothe the skin and reduce inflammation. Vitamin E oil, when massaged into the scar, can help improve the scar’s elasticity and appearance.
Further Reading about Breast Surgery with Dr Hunt
- Read Dr Hunt’s Breast Augmentation Mammoplasty Page
- Read Dr Hunt’s Breast Reduction Mammoplasty Page
- Read Dr Hunt’s Breast Lift Mastopexy Page
- Read Dr Hunt’s Breast Enlargement with Fat Page
- Read Dr Hunt’s Breast Implant Revision Page
Medical References about Breast Surgery and Scars
- Breast Reduction Scars: Healing, Appearance & Treatment
- What sort of scarring could you see from Breast Augmentation Mammoplasty?
- What to know about scars after breast reduction Mammoplasty surgery
- Unfavourable results following reduction mammoplasty – PMC
About Dr Jeremy Hunt – Specialist Plastic Surgeon
Dr Jeremy Hunt is a specialist plastic surgeon and a member of FRACS & ASPS. He has over 20 years of experience providing plastic surgery in Sydney.
The one-on-one service and attention to detail from Dr Hunt, has ensured that thousands of women and men from the Sydney & Wollongong NSW area and across Australia have received high quality surgical care.
Dr Hunt’s qualifications and education
Dr Jeremy A Hunt MBBS FRACS graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine degree from Sydney University in 1990 and is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and member of ASPS – the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons. He completed a Fellowship at the prestigious University of Texas in the United States, where he learnt from some of the world’s very best plastic surgeons.
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- Find out more about pricing, medical payment plans and paying for your surgery
- Request more information about the procedure – call on 1300 157 200 or contact us
- Make an Enquiry or Request a consultation with Dr Hunt
Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health professional.