Come join others currently navigating treatment in our weekly Zoom Meetup! Register here: Tuesdays, 1pm ET.
Fill Out Your Profile to share more about you. Learn more...
Webinar: Corrective Breast Reconstruction: Getting the Results You Want Join us July 9, 2024 at 6pm ET. Register here.

Anyone want to commiserate about scar tissue?


For three and a half years after my lumpectomy and radiation I felt like I'd gotten off really easy. My surgeon concealed the scar so well that in certain positions it wasn't obvious anything had happened. Then in May I noticed a small patch of reddened skin at the end of the scar, kind of like a lollipop on a stick. The skin and tissue underneath felt thick and hard. I went in immediately and had imaging, revealing an "indetermine mass extending to the skin" in the scar area, and also some “eggshell calcifications”in the actual lumpectomy area, which apparently wasn't directly underneath the exterior scar. They seemed fairly confident that this would turn out to be scar tissue related to the radiation, and when I asked if things could still be changing so long afterwards, they were very definite that this does happen, which was reassuring. They did a needle biopsy on the mass, and found "giant cell foreign body reaction" and "dense fibrosis." They wanted me to come back in 6 months to recheck the calcifications, but the wording in the report makes it pretty clear they think it's probably fat necrosis.

I should just trust these reassuring reports, but as the 6 month mark approaches, along with my annual MRI, I'm getting anxious again. It would help to hear about other people's experiences with scar tissue:

Does it hurt? (Mine does, on and off. Sometimes there's sort of a pulling sensation. This totally freaks me out.)

Does it affect your skin? (Mine does; there's the reddened spot, which thankfully hasn't changed since May, but it seems like it's getting more retracted, as if the scarring underneath is pulling the skin towards it. This also freaks me out.)

What does it look like on MRI? I've heard that these things can mimic malignancy on MRI, and am really hoping they won't make me get another biopsy. It's almost certain that this year's MRI will show changes from last year.

Is there anything to be done about it? Like, is massage a good idea or a terrible idea? Any skin products that would help with the redness?

Is it likely to get worse? Or, is there any chance it could get better?


  • ratherbesailing
    ratherbesailing Member Posts: 129

    Hi purplecat -

    Radiation, unfortunately, is the gift that keeps on giving. Long term effects aren't always apparent soon after treatment, and fibrosis is a given after radiation. Years later, I still feel pulling, and the sensation when I stretch my chest muscles that I am tearing fibers apart.

    I suspect the radiation is what is causing your symptoms. However, having said that, I am not a medical professional. If you are getting that pulling sensation I would suggest you ask one of your doctors for a referral to physical therapy. A good PT should be able to help with long term strategies for keeping it at bay.

    As far as scarring goes, you might be able to get a series of laser treatments, which can do wonders. Silicone gels help early in the healing process, but I don't know how effective they are later. Again, a trained medical professional should be able to give you advice on that.

    Hang in there!

  • purplecat
    purplecat Member Posts: 226

    Thanks, ratherbesailing. The pulling sensation I’ve noticed recently is at the scar itself, but I do have that tight muscle-tearing feeling when I stretch my arm over my head. I think when I get through my MRI and mammogram, assuming all is clear, I may ask for a referral to a plastic surgeon to see if anything can be done. It certainly does seem to be the gift that keeps on giving, sigh.

  • 7of9
    7of9 Member Posts: 474

    Hello. 6 yrs out and I still get that same tight almost tearing ( I know its not) sensation. Bad news is it never goes away. Good news is...six years out! I read about burn survivors and people who are maimed or have pins, plates etc ... we all have to work at it. Sucks but the pain reminds me I am surviving. Hope your scans go good! Hugs!

  • purplecat
    purplecat Member Posts: 226

    Thanks, 7of9. I don’t know why it’s so reassuring to confirm that other people have the same symptoms I do, but it is. Realizing too that, as you said, we all have to work at it, especially as we age, and it’s probably impossible to live to a ripe old age without picking up some scuffs and scars. Yay for being six years out!

  • ctmbsikia
    ctmbsikia Member Posts: 758

    Hi purplecat, I could have written that post. I have experienced much of the same since lumpectomy and radiation. In year 2 and 3 I was getting Birads 3s on both Mammo and MRI and finally a 4 and had an MRI guided biopsy with result being fat necrosis w/giant body cell reaction. I reported the pulling sensation still last year and mammo/US showed staple. Just recently had a diagnostic mammo and they called me back for a few more pictures so that the radiologist could see through the scar tissue and again, everything is stable. I am grateful to know this is all benign and yet I still get anxious too around testing and appointments.

    I also believe that working that side may have made my symptoms more noticeable. After working out for a while and bumping the damn boob w/a weight I had the skin turn red with lines and also had some retraction. I have the dimple now. It may never resolve but it is much better than it was, and I try to be very mindful of not working that side. RE: I don't lift weights or do pushups anymore! LOL

    Hope that helps. Good luck with the MRI.

  • purplecat
    purplecat Member Posts: 226

    Thanks, ctmbsikia. I think I remember your comments when I posted about this in May. We both have the giant cell reaction. I think you even warned me that there could be more testing ahead for a while due to post-biopsy changes, and I'm holding on to that.

    I have my results already, and unfortunately, they're not what I had hoped. I need to return for an MRI guided biopsy. There are two spots, one that seems close enough to the other scarring to be more of the same, but since it's new since the last MRI they want to check it out. The other seems a little scarier, mentioning "tenting" of the pectoralis. I don't know what that means. I think I remember reading that scar tissue and fat necrosis can look pretty suspicious on MRI?

  • nancyd
    nancyd Member Posts: 557

    I have an internal scar that only bothers me when I move my arm in a particular way. Specifically, it pulls and hurts when I reach down to my left in my car to release the fuel tank door (the release in on the floor by my left foot). I've had it checked with sonograms every six months, but since the tissue hasn't changed since it's been monitored, and probably hasn't changed since I had radiation, I'm going to stop that. Unless a doctor said to me, "We can release the tension with a simple cut," I will just have to live with it...and look for a car with it's gas tank release switch is a different place, lol.