The end of your cancer treatment is a thrilling and liberating experience. You’ve struggled through one of the most difficult challenges anyone can face, and you’ve come out on the other side. But now, you have to establish a new normal, and that might include dealing with new scars that formed during or after your cancer treatment.
Learning to live with cancer scars can be difficult. Fortunately, cancer scar treatment is possible with the help of your doctor. And while treatment may not be able to make scars disappear completely, certain therapies can help minimize the appearance of your scars.
Scars From Cancer
Many people realize that having cancer can leave lasting emotional and psychological scars, but some don’t realize that physical scars are also a very real possibility. Some treatments, like surgery and radiation therapy, are more likely to cause scars.
Scars are classified into four main types, including:
- Acne scars, which result from any type of acne anywhere on your body.
- Hypertrophic scars, which are red and rise up above your skin. These scars usually form as a result of injury to the skin, such as a surgical incision.
- Contracture scars that form after skin is burned. These types of scars are more likely to occur if you receive radiation therapy.
- Keloids, which extend out beyond the original site of injury, jutting out from your skin. Keloids can become quite large and can even affect mobility, depending on their location.
In general, scars form where your skin is injured. This can be anywhere on your body that received treatment, either with surgery or radiation. It’s easy to predict where your scars may form — if you’ve had breast cancer that was treated with mastectomy, scars will form horizontally across the affected breast. The removal of certain skin cancers is more likely to leave scars on parts of your face or near your hairline.
Cancer Scar Treatment
Many people have trouble dealing with and accepting cancer scars. But it’s possible to reduce the appearance of your scars to help minimize their impact on your life. Your doctor can steer you toward treatments that may be most effective for you and your particular type of scar.
Some scar ointments and gels can help lighten the color of smaller scars. Your doctor may recommend certain over-the-counter or prescription creams or gels to help your scars fade. If you have bigger or more darkly colored scars, your doctor may recommend other treatments. These may include:
- Fillers: Your doctor may inject certain medications into your skin to help improve the appearance of sunken scars.
- Chemical peels: This procedure is used to remove outer layers of old skin, which is replaced by new, fresher skin.
- Dermabrasion: A special tool is used to remove the top few layers of your skin, helping your scar appear smoother and lighter.
- Laser surgery: Your doctor uses a special laser to vaporize thin sections of your skin. Following the procedure, new, smoother skin grows over the area.
- Light therapy: This treatment option improves the color and appearance of your scars with no invasive surgery.
Caring for Scars
Caring for scars doesn’t stop once you stop treatment. To help minimize the appearance of your scars, it’s important to continuously apply sunscreen over the affected area. A broad-spectrum sunscreen that uses an SPF of at least 30 can help prevent your scar from darkening and may help it to fade away more quickly.
It can be difficult to accept cancer scars, but you can take steps to help reduce both their appearance and their impact on your life. A variety of treatment options offer solutions for reducing scar appearance. If your scars bother you, your doctor can help you determine which cancer scar treatment may work best, given your unique medical history and scars.
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