Mastectomy Scar

Scarwork is a gentle, manipulative therapy that helps ease problems such as stiffness, adherence and pain after scar tissue forms following an operation to partially or fully remove the breast. It’s normally performed by a qualified therapist once the scar tissue has healed and it is safe to manipulate.

Around 55,000 new cases of breast cancer are detected in the UK alone each year and it’s the fourth most common cancer in women. Over the last several decades, research and treatments have improved dramatically and today 76% of patients are likely to live 10 years or more.

One of the key parts of breast cancer treatment is the removal of the tumour through surgery. Around 68% of patients diagnosed with the disease will undergo this type of operation and it invariably leaves serious scarring that causes issues during recovery. This includes pain and itching as the body begins its road to recovery as well as the healing scar impeding movement.

Women can often live with serious scarring for many years and it can have a big impact on their sense of self and general health and well-being.

What is Scarwork™?

Not only is scarring painful as the wounds from an operation like a mastectomy begin to heal, it generally looks unsightly and has profound psychological, social and emotional effects on the individual. But that’s not the only way that scarring can affect a woman who has survived breast cancer.

They can also suffer from a range of symptoms once healing is complete because of the scarring itself. This includes layers adhering to each other as well as surrounding bone, stiffness, reduced movement, pain and general discomfort.

These types of problems are where Scarwork™, a technique developed in America by therapist Sharon Wheeler, can be effective.

Scarwork™ uses light massage to manipulate the scarred area and encourage natural healing. When a scar heals, different layers of skin tend to stick to each other and that can cause discomfort and reduce movement in many cases. Many women, for instance, see a reduction in strength and mobility of the arm following their operation. This may be countered by doing certain exercises but Scarwork™ can also be used to improve the range of movement and comfort. In some cases, it can also reduce the appearance of the scar and make it less ‘visible’.

Everything in the body is connected, so damage in one area will often affect another. This sometimes means the body is almost permanently tense in certain areas. As the Scarwork proceeds and the connected tissues are loosened up, individuals should begin to see benefits starting to appear such as less pain, improved movement and greater flexibility.

Particularly with women recovering from breast surgery, important areas like lymph nodes tend to be damaged or completely removed. These small structures interconnect around the body and play a vital role in our immune systems.

In addition to surgery, many women will also undergo radiotherapy which helps get rid of any remaining cancer but is not without its side effects, one of which is potentially more localised damage and thickening of scar tissue. That can add to the reduced movement and discomfort in many cases.

What are the Benefits of Scarwork ?

Since it was first introduced by Wheeler when she visited the UK from America in 2014, more and more therapists have been taking training to deliver Scarwork™ in their clinics. Not only is it gentle and non-invasive but it also seems to have a significant effect on the psychological and physical health of the individual.

Treatments need to be individualised for each patient – no two people and certainly no two scars are the same. Therapists talk about the ability to reintegrate scar tissue so that it works more effectively with other parts of the body and improves both movement and appearance. Several sessions may be required depending on the extent of the scarring and how old it is.

In a recent feedback study by the oncology department at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in Hertfordshire, patients who were exposed to Scarwork™ reported changes such as “improved appearance, texture, mobility, wellbeing and acceptance of scars.”

This is one of the first important studies in the UK and it looked at 19 patients each receiving about 6 treatments over several months. is at the forefront of pushing for more research into the benefits of this kind of treatment, not just for cancer patients but others too.

Because more therapists are training to offer Scarwork™ in their practices, it should provide a good source for more evidence-based practice in the future. At the moment, we have a lot of strong anecdotal evidence from the USA and other countries where the technique is practised and it is certainly having a significant impact on many people coping with scarring after surgery.

What Happens During a Scarwork™ Session?

Sessions take anything up to an hour and the first usually starts by sitting down with the therapist and talking through your history and what you are expecting. The Scarwork™ itself involves very gentle manipulation and the therapist will ask you to say if anything is painful or uncomfortable. It’s supposed to be non-invasive and painless. You should feel no ill effects after the session has finished.

It can take several Scarwork™ sessions before you begin to feel a difference and see changes. It does happen quicker for some people compared to others.

When Can I Begin Having Scarwork™?

You need to clear it with your surgeon if you can have a therapy like Scarwork™ and they will decide if the wound is completely healed and stable enough. This should be around 8 to 15 weeks after surgery but can be much longer. Again, it’s critical to talk to your oncology team first before you book an appointment with a Scarwork™ therapist.

Book an Appointment Today

If you would like to find out more about the benefits of Scarwork for women recovering from breast cancer surgery, contact us today to find out more.

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