What Causes Scar Tissue in the Breast?

Jami Yontz

Scar tissue in the breast can be caused by a surgical procedure, such as a breast augmentation, lumpectomy, or mastectomy, or radiation therapy. It is the result of the body activating its healing process after a cut, injury, or damage has occurred to the skin or cells. The body begins to produce collagen, which forms connective tissue that causes the skin to heal back together. Scar tissue can cause pain in the breast because the connective, fibrous tissues create a tightness or hardness in the area.

Scar tissue can form in the breast after a mastectomy.
Scar tissue can form in the breast after a mastectomy.

During a breast augmentation procedure, incisions are made beneath the breast or around the areolas so that the surgeon can insert the implants through these incisions. Then the tissues inside the breast are cut to form a place for the implant. The implant may also be placed under the breast muscle. A person's body naturally forms a layer of scar tissue around the implant, and scars usually form where the initial incisions were made.

Incisions may be made beneath the breast during a breast augmentation procedure.
Incisions may be made beneath the breast during a breast augmentation procedure.

The most common complication associated with breast augmentation is a condition that causes the scar tissue to tighten or harden around the implant. This condition, known as capsular contracture, can cause pain, discomfort, and deformation of the implant. It occurs in around 20% of patients who have undergone a breast augmentation, but it is less common in women who choose to have the implant placed beneath the breast muscle.

Radiation therapy for breast cancer will often cause the tissue of the breast to be damaged.
Radiation therapy for breast cancer will often cause the tissue of the breast to be damaged.

A lumpectomy is a procedure in which breast tissue that surrounds a suspected cancerous tumor is removed. The tumor and an additional margin are removed so that the medical professional can biopsy the tissue to learn if the cancer has spread throughout the breast from the location of the tumor. When the tissue is removed, fluid will fill the space where the tumor was located. Scar tissue will begin to form in this area and will replace the fluid.

A gynecologist or other physician can help pinpoint the causes of a patient's breast scar tissue.
A gynecologist or other physician can help pinpoint the causes of a patient's breast scar tissue.

A mastectomy is the surgical removal of the breast and, depending on the type of mastectomy performed, the breast tissue, areola, and lymph nodes may be removed. Many women choose to have a breast reconstruction procedure performed at the same time as the mastectomy. Scar tissue in the breast will form after the reconstruction procedure, creating the outer lining around the implant.

Scar tissue can lead to pain in the breast.
Scar tissue can lead to pain in the breast.

Radiation therapy for breast cancer will often cause the blood vessels and tissue of the breast to be damaged. The tissue will begin to heal, and scarring, also known as radiation fibrosis, will typically form within the breast. Breast tissue can harden because of the scarring, but gentle exercises and massages can help to prevent some toughening of the tissue. Women should consult a medical professional about the risks associated with surgical procedures and the possibility of scar tissue in the breast forming.

Scar tissue in the breast may develop as a result of radiation therapy for breast cancer, which can be detected through a mammogram.
Scar tissue in the breast may develop as a result of radiation therapy for breast cancer, which can be detected through a mammogram.

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Discussion Comments

bythewell

@pastanaga - It's still a risk though. My mother had to have a lump removed a while ago and the scar tissue really bothers her. It is very itchy a lot of the time and it can also pull painfully if she moves in the wrong way. She's asked the doctors but they don't think there's anything they can do about it.

pastanaga

@pleonasm - If you are serious about the reduction, I would still talk to a doctor about it and see what they say. There are ways to manage scar tissue and it doesn't always have to be a problem even if the person is genetically inclined towards having scars.

It might also not end up being painful. In a lot of cases people simply don't like the look of excess scar tissue, but it isn't actually painful so if your aim is to increase physical well-being, scar tissue wouldn't necessarily prevent that.

pleonasm

I've sometimes thought about getting a breast reduction, because mine are not the smallest in the world and it would solve a lot of problems for me.

But I know the people in my family tend to scar quite badly whenever they have surgery, even if the surgeon does a really good job of sewing everything back up. So I'd be quite worried that I would just make myself a very painful problem by trying to change what I've got. And the thing is, if you have bad scars it's not like they can just cut them away because that will only lead to more scarring.

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