Importance of Cancer Aftercare

Q: I am 72 years old, and have a history of cancer (ovarian and histiocytoma in my leg). Five years ago I had a mastectomy, and I have scar tissue from the surgery. A few months ago I developed pink scar tissue in the area where the staple was pulled out. Within the pink scar tissue a large dark mole came, then another. It oozes occasionally, and at times is painful—usually after I do housework. I have had other large dark moles that eventually fall off, as well as several moles that start out as skin color and itchy, but then turn into dark moles. Should I be concerned about them?

A: When a person has treatment for cancer of the breast—or any cancer—it is vital that continued communication between the patient and therapist be maintained.

It is not easy for us to diagnose exactly what is happening in the scars of your surgery. It could be several things. Depending on the type of wound closure used, there could be remnants of suture material beneath the skin. These crusted lesions could represent small pockets of infection. The major concern, though, is that these could be small clusters of recurrent cancer. Sometimes cancer cells will grow in the incision line, if they were microscopically present at the time of surgery. You mention the lesions as "moles"; a doctor should definitely check those out. They may be related to your histiocytosis.

Not being able to see the actual lesions severely limits our ability to comment. But we are printing this question so that you and others who read this will get the most important advice: Go back to the doctor or the team who did the surgery and have the problem evaluated by people who know your situation.

We are complex in our makeup, and often when we have experienced a traumatic event such as yours with breast cancer we want to avoid further contact with the situation that evokes anxiety. You must, however, for the sake of your health, overcome your fears and go back to the doctors. A simple explanation may be able to allay all your fears, or a simple additional treatment put you back on the road to health.

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