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"What treats post-mastectomy skin irritation?"


I just had a double-mastectomy for middle-stage breast cancer, and I'm completely happy with the decision. The only trouble I've had is with the skin of my chest, which has been very irritated since the procedure. What can I do to soothe it? Is this a common problem?


After mastectomy, there can be several skin complications. The physicians best qualified to discuss this issue with you include your primary care physician, your surgeon, and your oncologist (cancer doctor). After any surgery, skin can become irritated and sensitive.

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Common sense measure apply, including trying to keep the skin clean, dry, and well moisturized. There are several complications specifically related to the mastectomy that may be important. Collection of fluid under the skin from severing of lymph ducts, called a seroma, is a relatively common problem, as is cellulitis, an infection of the skin at the site of the incision. These problems can be managed by your surgeon. If you have had radiation to the chest, the skin is often very dry and can tighten. Optimal skin care, including moisturizers is important. Your physician may advise you to visit a physical therapist, who may provide stretching and other exercising to relief this discomfort. Finally, the severing of nerves from the surgery can result in a burning or other uncomfortable sensation, called neuropathic pain. There are a number of medications that your primary care physician or oncologist may be able to prescribe to help with this. As always, the diagnosis and management of your specific issue will require a physical examination by your personal physician. Scheduling an appointment with your primary care doctor, surgeon, or oncologist is highly recommended.

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