From an evolutionary standpoint, breasts ensure the survival of a woman’s offsprings through nursing. However, cultural evolution changed the way we look at women’s chests; they have become symbols of femininity and allure. It doesn’t come as a surprise then that breast augmentation is the most popular surgical procedure done on women worldwide.
Aesthetic issues aside, breast pain, lumps, discharge and other forms of injuries stir cancer concerns among women. The anxiety stems from the fact that breast cancer ranks second to lung cancer as the deadliest for women.
Some factors that cause minor breast issues are trauma, hormonal changes and infection. They normally go away with time or can be relieved at home by using breast packs.
But what if the thing you hoped could soothe you, is the very same thing that could cause you harm? We hope to ease your worries as we discuss issues related to breast pack use and breast injuries.
Temperature therapy and its adverse impacts
The application of cold therapy at freezing or near-freezing temperature is a safe and effective way to help in the initial healing and swelling phase of an injury.
Moderation is key, as any temperature lower than the freezing point can cause frostbite — an injury caused by prolonged exposure to extremely cold temperatures.
When it comes to heat therapy, hotter isn’t always better. Heat therapy should be administered at an ideal temperature of 140 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Meaning, it should be hot enough for the skin, but not too hot that it burns.
As such, temperature therapy is not recommended for individuals with diseases that affect the blood vessels, blood circulation and sensory nerves, as they are more sensitive to frostbite and heat burns, even if one may not even notice it.
Burns from both heat or cold therapy, mainly due to misuse, may very well be the most adverse impact of using gel packs.
Frostbite injury of the breast
In a rare case, a woman in her 50s suffered a second degree frostbite injury after applying a do-it-yourself ice pack on her breast for six hours following her biopsy. The thin cloth with which she wrapped the ice did not prevent her overexposure to cold temperature from damaging her chest tissues.
Blisters appeared on her breasts the following day, and the woman self medicated with a topical ointment, only seeking medical help three days later. For 14 days, she was advised to perform daily wound dressing with regular application of a moisturizer and disinfectant on the affected area. She was lucky she did not need a surgery to address her case.
Breast packs and surgeries
Some cosmetic surgeons do advise patients to apply cold packs on the affected area, such as for those who have undergone rhinoplasty. Several orthopedic surgeons likewise see no problem with patients using ice packs after going under the knife for joint-related surgeries.
But not all physicians are on board postoperative cold therapy applications, with some discouraging the use of ice packs on patients whose soft tissues were disrupted by surgery, including breast augmentation.
According to some doctors, using cold packs exposes postoperative breast augmentation patients to higher susceptibility to injury, frostbite and scarring.
A scientific explanation points out that inappropriate use of cold therapy may cause the formation of ice crystals in the cell, disrupting its natural structure and leading to tissue loss and necrosis in the aftermath of a frostbite.
Gel pack misuse
Fresh injuries are generally treated with cold packs and not heat packs. The latter is normally used during the recovery process, about two to three days following the trauma.
If used incorrectly by applying a warm pack on a recent injury, for instance, the pack will aggravate the swelling by causing blood to rush to the affected site.
Apart from burns, prolonged exposure to cold temperatures may lead to damaged tissues and nerves.
The ideal timing for gel pack use, whether warm or cold, is no longer than 20 minutes. A thin cloth placed between your skin and the pack also offers a bit of protection.
What if I’m using breast packs?
Breast pack users should practice the same precautions. Even if the gel packs go with sleeves or pouches, be prudent in placing a thin cloth between your skin and the packs. Know when to apply heat or cold therapy for your breast problems and never use the packs for over 20 minutes.
If your chest still hurts despite using breast packs, it might be an underlying symptom of a breast injury.
Causes of a breast injury
Similar to the other parts of your body, a breast injury represents your mammary glands’ natural reaction to damage caused by a direct impact, including surgical procedures.
Chest trauma happens in the presence of physical damage to one or both breasts. It is quite easy for your breasts to get injured on a daily basis, like getting hit with an object, running or doing heavy physical activities without a supportive bra, using a breast pump or wearing tight clothing often.
Symptoms of a breast injury
Suspect that you have breast injury or trauma when you notice bruises or contusion, tenderness and pain in your breasts:
- Pain and tenderness – These may appear immediately following the impact or a few days later.
- Bruising – A bruise is initially red because your blood is rich in oxygen and iron. It then turns blue or purple as oxygen and iron dissipate. A few days later, it turns into a green hue to signal hemoglobin breakdown. A yellow tint further indicates the disintegration of red blood cells, as the bilirubin compound is produced. The damaged cells are reabsorbed by the body.
- Fat necrosis or lumps – These form as a result of a damaged breast tissue common after a breast injury. While it may be painful, it is usually non-cancerous.
- Hematoma – This signals a pooling of blood outside the blood vessel and is more serious than a bruise. It may take up to more than a week to appear, and leaves a discoloration similar to a bruise.
Most of these symptoms are not serious and eventually heal on their own.
How to treat simple breast injuries
However, if you want to heal faster, you may do so at home by following these steps:
Apply a cold pack – If you develop bruising, pain and swelling, apply a cold breast pack to help constrict the blood vessels that may be damaged and bleeding.
Apply the breast packs on and off for 15 minutes each time. The 15-minute removal allows your skin to warm up. Repeat this for up to three hours and for two to three days.
Do not apply directly on skin and do not use it for more than 20 minutes.
- Apply a warm pack – After two to three days, use warm breast packs to increase blood flow and promote healing.
- Wear a supportive and comfortable bra – Properly fitted bras help you avoid injuring your breasts further.
If you’re experiencing symptoms similar to a breast injury or trauma but had recent surgery, it is best to consult your doctor for pain and inflammation management. For reasons stated earlier, cold breast packs and specific pain medications may not be for you.
Is there a link between injury and breast cancer?
Breast cancer usually starts in the inner lining of milk ducts and could spread in the different parts of the body. There are many factors that impact an individual’s risk of developing breast cancer, such as genetics, age and lifestyle.
Breast injuries do not cause cancer. It may cause pain, bruising and swelling, but not cancer.
In some instances, chest trauma may result in the formation of fat necrosis — a lump of damaged breast tissue that may be mistaken for a tumor. This scar tissue is formed when the body repairs the damaged fatty breast tissue and it appears not only after trauma but usually after breast surgery, or radiation, among others. Fat necrosis is benign or not cancerous.
When to see a doctor for breast problems
While most breast injury symptoms go away with time, some people develop severe complications after a harsh impact to the chest, like those involved in a vehicular accident. Contact your doctor immediately if you have:
- Signs of excessive bleeding – See a doctor immediately if you are feeling faint, a rapid heartbeat and are experiencing low blood pressure. This needs emergency treatment to stop the injury, and more importantly, to save your life.
- Worsening pain after a breast augmentation surgery – Pain or discomfort following any form of medical procedure is normal. However, because this type of surgery is sensitive, you need to seek your doctor’s advice.
- A newly discovered lump – Your doctor may recommend imaging scans such as MRI, ultrasound, X-ray or mammography to decide whether to proceed with a biopsy to rule out or determine cancer.
- Warning signs of cancer – Apart from a lump, other cancer symptoms include any change in the size and appearance of breast: swelling, irritation or dimpling, as well as redness or flaky skin around the nipple and pulling in and pain on the nipple area.
There are various reasons why breast problems occur. In most cases, the symptoms are not serious and eventually go away on their own. The proper use of breast packs can help solve the problem.
On the other hand, delaying medical intervention for several months may worsen a potentially serious breast condition. It is always best to stay on the safe side and contact your healthcare provider once you feel there’s something off.
What do you think about breast injuries and the use of breast packs? We at Gelpacks.com would like to know your thoughts. Contact us.