Radiation of the breast can cause the tissue to become necrotic. I learned this a couple of weeks ago when I developed a foul smelling lesion on my right breast six years after radiation for breast cancer. The breast cancer surgeon knew instantly what it was. I had dead, rotting tissue in my right breast. The formation of necrotic tissue following radiation is a common occurrence. I was sent to a wound clinic.
A wound clinic manages wounds that are hard to heal. These nurses are the experts. They know everything there is to know about the care and healing of difficult wounds. My wound is about an inch in diameter and it is quite deep. Initially, it was foul smelling. It still is but not as bad.
I was given the equipment to treat my own wound. I irrigate the cavity with a blunt needled syringe loaded with Dakin’s solution, an antiseptic liquid. Then I insert gauze dampened with the solution and laced with Santyl and cover the wound with a dressing. The Santyl is a collagenase ointment which dissolves the necrotic tissue. It cost $95 with insurance. This is not for a weak stomach. But I am a nurse and have always been able to do what needs to be done. I do this treatment twice a day. Morning then again before bed.
I ran out of the Dakin’s, so I found a recipe online. It was provided by a doctor to save his patients money. This makes a good wound disinfectant. Boil four cups of tap water for fifteen minutes. Add ½ tsp baking soda and almost a tablespoon Clorox. Store in a clean glass jar for up to a year. Works great and beats paying $20 for a bottle.
My return visit to the Doc wasn’t encouraging especially after all my work. She said there is still too much dead tissue in my breast so I would need surgery. I would lose my nipple and my breast would be much smaller. Not quite a mastectomy but almost.
I have two weeks to get ready for the holidays and I have been instructed to carry on with the treatments until surgery. Joy. Joy.
Yes. Joy! Sending prayers and positive vibes. Even as a nurse, self care can get tiresome!