Hiding Scars, Hides Reminders Of Breast Cancer

Patients diagnosed with breast cancer have plenty of reminders of the treatment and healing. Hiding the scar of surgery is one way to mask the reminder.

She missed one year of having her regular mammogram and it turns out it was a significant year to miss. In February Dinah Duvall was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“They found a tumor in my left breast.  I started my treatment at another hospital and that surgeon estimated the size of the tumor was 3.5 millimeters. An MRI followed and the tumor was much larger. It was a scary time,” said Duvall, who was referred to an oncologist. Chemotherapy followed. Then she started reading and second guessing her treatment. She lacked confidence in her providers.

“I didn’t ask for advice; I didn’t talk about it until it was apparent because I was bald. Then friends recommended I get a second opinion,” said Duvall. Everything changed the first time she met IU Health oncologists Dr. Anna Maria Storniolo and Dr. Carla Fisher. Something just clicked with her new providers. She felt comfortable.  

“I was going into a third round of chemo, already tired and already losing my hair and Dr. Storniolo told me that it wasn’t necessary. I was so relieved,” said Duvall, who had a partial mastectomy.  She was also relieved after meeting with Dr. Fisher and learning about a technique that concealed the incision around her nipple.

In a Hidden Scar procedure, a surgeon places the incisions in a location that is hard to see, so that the scar is not visible when the incision heals. The result is little to no visible reminder of the cancer. The Hidden Scar approach can be performed for a nipple sparing mastectomy or a lumpectomy procedure.

“My personal experience is patients are resilient and are happy with most of the outcomes. To hide a scar makes a difficult journey easier,” said Dr. Fisher, who frequently performs the hidden scar and nipple sparing. “It’s important to work with a great team of plastic surgeons to get the best results. We have that here,” said Dr. Fisher.

For Duvall, married with three adult children, the outcome couldn’t have been more satisfying.

“I go to the Y to work out and the last thing you want when you are in the shower is for someone to see a scar,” said Duvall, who turns 70 next month. “I’m not a terribly vain person but I’d prefer not to have outward signs of that cancer – whether it’s something people question or wonder – there are better things to talk about in life.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
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 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.