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pimples and pustules from breast cancer surgery

Pimples and Pustules following Breast Cancer Surgery

operating room lights

Pimples and pustules from breast cancdr surgery - or any surgery - can be a side effect caused by a number of conditions. Significant and long surgeries can result in a variety of skin rashes showing up during the post-operative period.

The most common harmless post operative skin rashes and lesions are one of the following:

  1. Miliaria, which is also called "prickly heat," is due to sweating against a surface (like an OR gurney) that does not breath well. It results in small red bumps, blisters, or pustules where the skin was sweating.
  2. Red pressure marks from holding a position during a prolonged surgical procedure.
  3. Adhesive allergies from where tape or electrodes were stuck on the skin, leaving an allergic rash.
  4. Acne-like rashes, such as Pityrosporum folliculitis, shaving folliculitis, and Staph folliculitis.  

Accurate diagnosis of pimple and pustules is important as treatments do not overlap. I received this lovely thank you from a reader for helping her resolve her post-operative pityrosporum folliculitis, which allowed her to finish her breast cancer treatment and reconstruction. It is heartwarming for me to know that I made her treatment journey just a little bit easier. 

Dear Dr. Bailey,

I would like to let you know what your products have done for me. Almost 2 years ago when I just turned 41, I had opted for a double mastectomy after a breast cancer diagnosis. Shortly after the surgery, I developed a nasty rash. After seeing 2 dermatologists and an infectious disease doc, I was diagnosed with Pityrosporum folliculitis. I was not able to have my reconstructive surgery until I was able to control the rash.

Nothing I was given really helped. I took matters into my own hands and found your website and your products for this type of folliculitis. I purchased them and after several weeks, my rash was almost gone and I was able to finally get my reconstructive surgery completed. After that surgery, I was still getting some breakouts. I bought your products again and they cleared me up again :) I am very thankful I found your website and I highly recommend your products.

Thank you, Anissa, MA

Hello Anissa, Thank you for sharing your story and congratulations on getting through your treatments. I’m sorry that a stubborn skin rash slowed that process down for you and I’m truly glad you were creative and researched a solution for yourself – brilliant work!

Pityrosporum yeast as the cause of acne and acne-like folliculitis is often under-appreciated in my opinion. It's a normal yeast in everyone's pores above the waist, but some people are more prone to the yeast overgrowing its healthy boundaries and causing a rash. Even people who are not particularly susceptible to Pityrosporum folliculitis can suffer from this rash if they give the yeast just the right conditions for growth.

In my experience, those conditions include times when your body is “under the weather” as one would be postoperatively.  Also, being sweaty when you have an infection will encourage yeast growth. Eating a lot of carbs and sugars seem to encourage the yeast to grow. Oily skin is a feast for pityrosporum as well.

pimples and pustules after breast cancer surgery back acneI built my Back Acne Treatment Kit to treat Pityrosporum folliculitis. It also treats acne vulgaris (common acne). It includes the Foaming Zinc Cleanser to frustrate the yeast and Benzoyl Peroxide Foaming Wash to clean out the pores, thereby removing some of the comfy food and pore debris that the yeast seems to like.

There are other products that could be used with similar results if a person's skin is too sensitive to this powerful professional Treatment Kit. They include Calming Zinc Soap for people with drier skin. I like it applied with a Salux Cloth. If there are a lot of clogged pores too, then adding the Foaming Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Cleanser is helpful. Caution: benzoyl peroxide does bleach fabric and there is a chance you could be allergic to benzoyl peroxide.

Dear Anissa, thank you for sharing your solution to the postoperative Pityrosporum folliculitis rash that you developed as part of your breast cancer treatment. This will undoubtedly help many other breast cancer survivors who may develop this pimple-like rash during their treatment too.

Warm Regards,

Cynthia Bailey, MD Board Certified Dermatologist    

Photo: Thanks and Gratitude to James_jhs