The Best Essential Oils for Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction Scars
One of the best things you can do subsequent to having a mastectomy or breast reconstruction (or both) is to begin applying certain essential oils to the scars just as soon as the tissues have knitted together and begun to heal. There are several reasons I recommend this and in this article I will share with you those reasons, as well as the best essential oils for mastectomy and breast reconstruction scars. and a recipe for a healing oil you can make yourself using essential oils and some special carrier oils.
Reasons to Begin Using Essential Oils After Surgery
1. All of the oils listed below are enormously antibacterial. Since hospitals are one of the best places to be exposed to some pretty nasty strains of bacteria, protecting your healing tissues with antibacterial essential oils just makes good sense.
2. Most of the oils listed will help with tissue regeneration, are potently anti-inflammatory, and will speed the healing process.
3. For preventative purposes. As a breast cancer coach, I cannot tell you how many women with whom I’ve come into contact have had recurrences of breast cancer in and among their mastectomy scar lines. I don’t share this to scare anyone, merely to inform you of the possibility. These oils may help to prevent that from happening. No guarantees, but strictly from my observances, those who used essential oils almost immediately after healing began (and I began using them within 24 hours of reconstruction surgery) have not had problems.
Combine ingredients in a sterilized dark glass bottle with a dropper. Before using, give it a gentle shake back and forth to combine ingredients. Use a few drops along scar lines 3 times per day while scar lines are healing, then twice daily for the next 30-90 days. Continue using at least once daily thereafter.
Will This Blend Help if Surgery Was Months Ago?
Yes, it should help. For those who have already begun the healing process and have some ugly scars left behind, this oil blend can be of assistance. It might not eradicate them completely, but take before and after pictures (and date them) so that you can see the difference. Feel free to share them with me!
Essential Oil Purity Matters
It’s important to understand that when using essential oils for health improvement, you need to be looking for 100% pure, organic essential oils that are made only from plants – as opposed to the cheaper, artificial fragrance oils you will find in places like the local health food shop. The problem with using the cheaper ones is that although they may have a pleasant aroma, fragrance oils often contain synthetic chemicals, and rather than helping to heal, using oils with synthetic chemicals may actually harm. Medicinal grade oils won’t do this.
GET MY BEST TIPS on healthy ways to beat breast cancer and prevent recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
Post Mastectomy Pain Syndrome – It Is Real and What To Do About It
If you have had a mastectomy or lumpectomy and are experiencing some ongoing pain and discomfort that has nothing to do with the normal recovery period for surgery – we’re talking pain and burning that lasts months and even years after surgery – it is VERY real, it has a name, and in this article I’m going to give you some suggestions for what to do about it.
It is a reasonable expectation that pain can be experienced after major surgery like a mastectomy or lumpectomy, although there are ways to minimize this kind of pain. See my article Your Breast Surgery Recovery – Using Arnica to Minimize Brusing and Swelling. But pain which persists beyond a normal period of healing is considered to be chronic and is a whole different thing altogether. There is a term for it, Post Mastectomy Pain Syndrome, and despite the title, it can happen after lumpectomy surgery as well.
What is Post Mastectomy Pain Syndrome (or PMPS)?
PMPS is categorized as chronic pain that occurs after surgery for breast cancer including lumpectomy, mastectomy, and axillary lymph node dissection (this involves removing lymph nodes in the underarm area) and persists beyond what could be considered a normal period of healing.
A number of my coaching clients are experiencing PMPS and it, quite simply, is driving them nuts. The pain and discomfort experienced from PMPS can be any of the following:
• a shooting pain
• a burning sensation
• a stabbing pain
• an electric shock type of pain that accompanies a constant burning and aching feeling
• a throbbing, aching pain
There are a number of studies on PMPS and they indicate that anywhere from 20 to 68 percent of breast cancer survivors who have had mastectomy, lumpectomy or axillary clearance experience PMPS. That’s a huge number! PMPS typically begins in the period immediately after surgery, but it can also wait up to several months after surgery to appear and persist for a number of years. For some, the condition goes away on its own, but for others the pain is constant, and it wears away at their normally good nature, making them feel tired, despondent, depressed and grouchy.
What Causes PMPS?
There are several different things which can cause PMPS:
1. During lumpectomy surgery, mastectomy surgery, and/or axillary lymph node dissection, sometimes a patient’s intercostobrachial nerve (see photo below) and/or other sensory nerves in the underarm and breast areas are injured. Removal of a tumor located in the upper, outer quadrant of the breast (near the underarm) also increases risk of PMPS because the nerves in this region are more easily damaged.
2. Formation of scar tissue from the surgery can also be a cause for PMPS. Interestingly, studies have shown that PMPS occurs more often after lumpectomy than after mastectomy.
3. Treatment with radiation or chemotherapy after surgery can also cause PMPS.
Symptoms of PMPS
Survivors typically complain of pain in the upper arm, the underarm, the shoulder and even the chest wall (all are areas enervated by the damaged intercostobrachial nerve). The pain experienced can range from mild and manageable, to being severe enough to interfere with daily activities. It can cause impaired movement of the affected arm, and can lead to not only pain but stiffness, and a condition referred to as “frozen shoulder”. These symptoms can be fairly continuous or intermittent. One client said hers was the intermittent kind, she would feel better for a few days and think it was finally gone, only to have it return full force for no apparent reason. The pain of PMPS can worsen by doing seemingly simple things such as household chores or even gentle stretching.
Easing the Symptoms of PMPS
It is important to carefully manage PMPS – not only for relief of the aggravating pain and other symptoms, but also to reduce the negative impact it can have on your quality of life. Here is a list of things that can help:
1. Essential oils – using pain relieving and anti-inflammatory essential oils like wintergreen, marjoram, peppermint, copaiba, ginger and a few others topically on the area of pain or other sensations can help to relieve the pain, inflammation, and settle the nerve down until it can repair. I would try this avenue first. Please ensure you use therapeutic grade essential oils from a reputable supplier.
2. An anti-inflammatory diet is highly recommended to ease the attendant inflammation in the body. See my article Anti-Inflammatory Foods That Help Fight Breast Cancer for some recommendations.
3. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. While it isn’t recommended to use these daily over a long period of time, the occasional use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen can help to relieve chronic pain and inflammation.
4. Deep tissue massage therapy is beneficial in management of PMPS because it can help to ease inflamed tissues, reduce scarring and adhesions, and restore movement to the affected limb. Indeed, one Korean study reported in 2014 found that trigger points that had developed in two particular shoulder muscles in post-mastectomy patients were responsible for their pain syndrome and injecting the trigger points with ultrasound relieved that pain.  A well-trained deep tissue massage therapist will know how to do this manually, without the need for ultrasound, but both can be helpful.
5. Pulsed, high intensity laser therapy. One small 2015 Egyptian study with 61 women found that treatment with pulsed, high intensity laser therapy increased range of motion of the affected shoulder, as well as quality of life for the women who underwent this form of therapy. 
6. Nerve block. A small study published in Cancer Research in 2013 found that a nerve block employing a combination of bupivacaine (an anaesthetic) and dexamethasone (an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid) was an effective potential treatment option for chronic neuropathic pain after mastectomy. 75 percent of patients receiving this nerve block injection reported persistent relief after one injection. 
The least exciting treatment option, but sometimes helpful for some patients in cases where pain is severe, is the use of anti-depressants and opioids to relieve neuropathic pain. These drugs must always be prescribed by a doctor and carefully monitored.
For some survivors, just knowing that the pain they are experiencing is real and not imagined can be comforting. Many have been told by their surgeons that there is no apparent reason for the pain they are experiencing and are sent on their way. If you’ve been told that, march down to your surgeon’s office with this article and have him/her read the research links below.
 Application of ultrasound-guided trigger point injection for myofascial trigger points in the subscapularis and pectoralis muscles to post-mastectomy patients: a pilot study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3990076/
 Long-term effect of pulsed high-intensity laser therapy in the treatment of post-mastectomy pain syndrome: a double blind, placebo-control, randomized study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26115690
 Abstract P3-10-03: A simple intervention to relieve chronic neuropathic post-mastectomy pain – http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/73/24_Supplement/P3-10-03.abstract
Post-mastectomy pain syndrome: incidence and risks – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22377590
Prevalence of post-mastectomy pain syndrome and associated risk factors: a cross-sectional cohort study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24144570
Clinical and neurophysiological evaluation of persistent sensory disturbances in breast cancer women after mastectomy with or without radiotherapy – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27456370
GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
Essential Oils For Nausea After Surgery: The Research
After undergoing surgery for breast cancer, it is pretty common to experience nausea, usually caused by a reaction to the anesthesia used. It may be considered common, but it definitely is not nice when you are going through it. I will share with you a couple of things that will help you through this.
Essential Oils For Nausea – The Research
Fortunately, essential oils are being studied a good deal more and the research coming to light is not only helpful but often fascinating.
One such study caught my eye recently, published in 2013 and titled Aromatherapy As Treatment For Postoperative Nausea: A Randomized Trial 1. Researchers used aromatherapy with 301 adult patients who were having trouble with nausea in the post-anesthesia care unit of one surgical center. The patients were given one of these four things on a gauze pad and asked to breathe in deeply three times:
1. Placebo (saline); or
2. Ginger essential oil; or
3. A blend of ginger, spearmint, peppermint and cardamom essential oils; or
4. Isopropyl alcohol
Nausea was then measured again in five minutes. The patients could also subsequently request anti-emetics (drugs which help to control nausea) if they needed them.
The researchers reported that the change in nausea level was significant for the essential oil blend and the ginger essential oil but not for the saline or the alcohol. No surprise! I feel sorry for the people who received saline or isopropyl alcohol! Also, the number of anti-emetic medications required after the aromatherapy treatment was significantly reduced. The researchers noted “Aromatherapy is promising as an inexpensive, noninvasive treatment for postoperative nausea that can be administered and controlled by patients as needed.”
Ginger has been used for centuries for nausea, it is a well-known anti-emetic and quite often the basis for many natural remedies for seasickness. Cardamom is a member of the ginger family and is also considered quite helpful for queasiness and nausea. Spearmint and peppermint have been used throughout history for digestive complaints including nausea.
No Essential Oils? Try Controlled Breathing
If you do not have access to essential oils, one smaller 2014 study indicated that just doing controlled breathing when experiencing nausea after surgery could be as helpful as the administration of peppermint essential oil 2.
Controlled breathing is a fairly specific way of using and focusing on the breath and here’s how it works. Fill your lungs and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth using a steady, slow rhythm. Try to keep your mouth closed when you breathe in through your nose and as you breathe out, “purse” or pucker your lips (as if you were about to whistle or kiss). This helps to slightly restrict the outflow of air. Try to make your “out” breath twice as long as your “in” breath. This technique helps to empty your lungs of old air, and to make more room in your lungs for fresh, oxygen-rich air. You might find it helpful to count to two as you breathe in, and count to four as you breathe out. Try not to hold your breath between breathing in and out. For some reason this technique helps to relieve some of the nausea after surgery quite well.
My Experience With Essential Oils For Pain Relief, Inflammation
While I did not experience nausea after surgery, I used peppermint essential oil post-surgery to help with pain relief, combining it with wintergreen. Peppermint and wintergreen are an effective duo for pain relief and inflammation. I just put a drop or two of each on the area of concern and never needed any of the morphine that was offered me. I considered that a big plus, I don’t do well with drugs and I know many others have that same problem. This might not work for everyone, but it certainly worked for me.
If you are about to undergo surgery, here are links to other articles on my website that may be useful for you:
1. Aromatherapy as Treatment for Postoperative Nausea: A Randomized Trial – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22392970
2. Controlled Breathing with or Without Peppermint Aromatherapy for Postoperative Nausea And/or Vomiting Symptom Relief: a Randomized Controlled Trial – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24461278
GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
Facing a life-altering surgery such as mastectomy is never going to be easy, let’s face it.
Regardless of your age, your breasts have been a big part of your sexual identity, nurtured your children, and/or given your partner much delight (and hopefully you as well). If you are facing mastectomy because of breast cancer, the thought of losing one or both breasts is no doubt a huge shock.
There are many resources out there for you to help you make your decision – and more than a few on this website – but the purpose of today’s article is to share with you the merits of having a “breast wake” should you decide to go forward with mastectomy.
What is a Breast Wake?
The traditional wake, held when someone died, involved family members or friends who stayed awake with the body of the deceased to watch or guard it and/or have a prayer vigil until it was time for the church funeral and/or burial.
According to Wikipedia, a wake is often a social rite which highlights the idea that the loss is one of a social group and affects that group as a whole.
Why should the loss of a breast be any different? I have a friend who held a wake for a much-beloved dog. I really think that this kind of loss should be noted, either before or after the event, but preferable before and here’s why.
Why Have A Breast Wake?
When you have gathered your family and friends together to mourn the loss of your breast(s), this is an exceptional time to ask each of them to help you with that process, in some small way while you are recovering and even possibly after treatments begin (if any).
Whether it be cooking you a healthy meal and bringing it over, or just taking out your garbage, or occasionally scrubbing the sink, you will be surprised to discover how many people actually want to help you and are willing to do just that. And you will need their help at some point, I promise you.
Mourning the loss of a breast doesn’t have to be a solemn occasion. Put someone else in charge of all of this – your best friend, for example – if you don’t feel up to it. Pull the carpets back and dance if you want to. Have some great, healthy food with your friends and family. Cry and laugh with them. Propose a toast to your breast(s) and have others do the same. Serve cupcakes that look like breasts.
Instead of having a guest book where people list their names, have a blank book for people to write in – a few of their favorite inspirational quotes (ask them to bring them along when you invite them) because at some point during this journey you will feel overwhelmed, scared and depressed. Having a book like this to delve into can help you through these difficult times.
With regard to the people who offer to help you, either you or a friend with good handwriting can write down the name and phone number of each person who offers help, along with what it was they offered to do. Don’t be afraid to call them either!
Please do mark the occasion because it will help you in so many ways. It will help your friends too.
If you would like to receive my best tips on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences, just sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com). I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
How To Relieve Pain From Tissue Expanders – Naturally
One of the things I hear most frequently from women going through breast implant reconstruction is their pain and frustration over those darned tissue expanders, so today I’m offering some information on how to relieve the pain from tissue expanders – naturally.
Tissue expanders are temporary devices implanted within chest muscles after a mastectomy, the main goal being to expand the tissues of the chest in order to accommodate an implant after removal of the patient’s own breast. The point of the tissue expanders is to make room for a permanent breast implant, and it is the muscles that are being stretched that are the source of the pain and discomfort.
Depending on the elasticity of your skin, it can be a very painful and uncomfortable process. This is not true for everyone and it should be said that the pain and discomfort are temporary. But for those going through it, it can be pretty miserable, so here is some help for you.
There are certain essential oils that are very good for improving the elasticity of skin, the best ones being lavender, myrrh and geranium. The essential oils of wintergreen, peppermint and copaiba can also help to relieve pain and inflammation – without the use of NSAIDS, opiates (Yes! I know one doctor who prescribes Vicodin for this pain!) or other pharmaceutical drugs.
How to Relieve Pain From Tissue Expanders – Naturally
You will need:
1 small glass bowl
1 larger glass bowl
Organic, unrefined coconut oil
Essential Oils for Improving Skin Elasticity – lavender, myrrh and geranium – make sure they’re high quality oils, I only use Young Living Essential Oils
Essential Oils for Pain Relief and Inflammation – wintergreen, peppermint, copaiba, clove
Step 1. We will work on pain relief first. Put about 1/2 tsp of coconut oil into the smaller glass bowl, set aside for a moment.
Step 2. Pour boiling water into the larger second bowl.
Step 3. Place the smaller glass bowl containing the coconut oil into the larger glass bowl. The boiling water will melt and warm the coconut oil. Once the coconut oil has melted, usually after a minute or two, just add 2-3 drops of each of wintergreen, peppermint and/or copaiba or clove (you can skip the boiling water and melting part of this if it’s a hot day and your coconut oil is already liquid!).
Step 4. Now dip your fingertips into the bowl containing the oils and gently massage into the sore tissues of your chest that are being expanded. Easy does it. These particular oils really help relieve pain and inflammation, as will the gentle massage. You could also do some gentle movement like yoga stretching. A cold gel pack can help a lot with pain if you’re in a hurry.
For Improving Elasticity of Tissue
Just go through steps 1-4 above, only substitute 2-3 drops each of lavender, geranium and/or myrrh. They all help to improve the elasticity of the skin, as will the warm coconut oil and gentle massage.
You can use this procedure as often as needed.
I hope that helps!
If you would like to receive my best tips on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences, just sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach). I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem and please be sure to consult your health care professional when making decisions about your health.
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / Stuart Miles
Creating Body Parts With 3D Printers
Last week I was listening to a news report about 3D printers and how scientists are working towards creating body parts using a new science called biofabrication. A scientist was holding up a model of a woman’s breast and they were describing how this new science worked.
This is the next frontier – 3D printing, a very exciting technology with so much potential. For breast cancer patients, the hope is that within the next 3 years, science will be able to create a new breast from a patient’s own cells.
No More “Flap” Surgeries Or Silicone Implants
Imagine this, no more rearranging the muscles from our bodies – muscles that we need and want – to rebuild our breasts, and no more silicone implants! Personally – speaking as a bodyworker – I feel that when they use muscles to rebuild a breast, it creates all sorts of imbalances in the body, I know that has certainly been the case for me. Using this new biofabrication technology, your new breast will be made using your own cells!
How The Process Works
As far as I understand it, rather than using rearranged muscles or a silicone implant, an MRI or a laser scan of the patient’s healthy breast would be used to design what is called a breast scaffold. You can see what the scaffold might look like in this article from the Brisbane Times.
The tissue is created by using modified printer cartridges and cells extracted from the patient, either from biopsies or stem cells. Then the tissue is grown using already existing techniques – it is cultured in a growth medium and allowed to multiply. Once the required amount of cells have grown, they are collected and formed into the desired shape and loaded into a cartridge to create what is called BioInk. The BioInk is loaded into a bioprinter along with a cartridge of hydrogel, which is a water-based matrix used as scaffolding for creating layers of cells. The printer prints a layer of the hydrogel, followed by a layer of BioInk cells, and so on. The layered calls naturally fuse together to create a scaffold.
Check out this quick YouTube video created by UMC Utrecht (one of the universities mentioned below) that shows how the process can be used to create osteochondral material in bone. This will give you a better idea of how it works.
Just think – some of your healthy cells could be harvested, grown in a dish, the scaffold created, and in one single operation, your surgeon would implant the scaffold into your body, and *voila* you have a new breast. From what I understand, in 2-3 years, the original scaffold will have degraded and disappeared.
This technology is already moving along at a rapid pace – I read about a 2-year-old child in the USA who was born without a trachea and received one built with her own stem cells, this occurred last year (see link to story below).
An international masters degree in biofabrication is already going to be jointly offered by the Queensland University of Technology, the University of Wollongong, the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands and the University of Würzburg in Germany, the first of its kind. Australian students would spend 12 months at one of the European universities and European students would spend 12 months at one of the Australian universities.
Of course, there are ethical concerns that this kind of technology will allow us to “play God” as never before, which makes a lot of people very uncomfortable. There has already been an exposé on 60 Minutes about guns that have been created using 3D printers. That one really made me nervous. It will need to be well-regulated, no doubt. But the applications for biofabrication are seemingly endless – new breasts, new bones, organ transplants. 18 people in the USA die every day while waiting in vain for transplants. We could save some lives in a big way. And get new breasts, with our own cells. 🙂
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About Marnie Clark
Hi I'm Marnie Clark, breast cancer survivor, and breast cancer coach. I have 20+ years of experience in natural medicine. In 2004/05 I battled breast cancer myself. You can see more about my journey on my page Breast Cancer Diary.
I've been healthy and recurrence-free since 2004 and in 2012 I became a Breast Cancer Coach because I became aware of the fact that whilst there is now a wealth of information on the Internet, much of it is confusing, conflicting, and sometimes just wrong!
Why should you work with me? Because:
(1) You don't want to go through this journey alone, feeling unempowered, frightened or just plain
clueless about what to do to help yourself.
(2) You will have someone working tirelessly on your behalf, putting together a healing plan for
you so you don’t have to lose your precious energy researching what food you should eat,
what supplements you should take, and what other things you can do that will give you the
best chances for survival. Instead you can spend that time resting, meditating, healing.
(3) You will learn what questions to ask your doctor (and have someone to turn to for the
questions they can't or won't answer).
(4) You will be armed with the tools and strategies you will need to get through the therapies you
choose so you can make your body hostile terrain for cancer.
You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.