Congenital deformities, mastectomy, or a lumpectomy can cause breasts to lose their symmetry and shape. It can leave you feeling shy and with low self-esteem. You may even change your whole wardrobe because of this. The feeling is quite understandable. However, the loss of symmetry and shape is not the end. You can get breast reconstruction to restore these characteristics and improve their appearance.
The process involves multiple procedures that surgeons accomplish in various stages. You can undergo some of these procedures after the mastectomy or lumpectomy. You can also set up a separate date to start the reconstruction.
Breast reconstruction can be either flap or implant-based reconstruction. Implant-based reconstruction uses breast implants to create a new mound. Flap reconstruction relies on collecting tissue from other parts of the patient’s body to create the breast. The surgeon will place a tissue expander or breast implant during your implant-based breast reconstruction surgery.
These have a teardrop or round shape with a silicon shell. The fluid in them can be silicone gel or saline water. If your breasts can accommodate the implants you want, the doctor can put them in after the mastectomy. If they do not, the surgeon will schedule the procedure for another date. While you wait for the scheduled date, they can put in an expander.
Expanders are devices surgeons use during breast reconstruction to stretch the chest skin and soft tissues. They help make space for the breast implant to fit. It is a balloon-like device that connects to a small valve.
The surgeon will place this device over or under your pectoral muscle. Over the next few months, as you wait for the scheduled surgery, the doctor will inject saline into the expander. They will do this in stages until the expander stretches the skin to the size of the breast implant.
There are new types of expanders that use carbon dioxide instead of saline. Instead of injections, they use a remote control that releases gas from an internal reservoir. You will need to see the doctor every week or two for the adjustments.
The simple answer is yes. However, sometimes you may not have a choice. Expanders are temporary devices, and because of the stretching you need to undergo, you may experience pain and discomfort. The expander also feels unnatural and very hard due to its thickness and lack of flexibility.
Although you may have discomfort and pain, you should not experience discoloration. If you do, alert your doctor. The pain may be the worst for the first day after filling the expander, but it subsides in two or three days. You can use simple pain-relieving techniques to deal with it. These include cold packs, slow arm stretches, and meditation. If these do not work, you can use medication. If it is very severe, the doctor can reduce the size of the expander.
Although you may want to skip the expander stage because of discomfort, sometimes it is necessary for your procedure. Get to know some techniques to deal with the pain and discomfort during this time. It will help you get the best results for your breast reconstruction.
For more information on implants and expanders, visit Kenneth Bermudez, MD, at our San Francisco, California office. Call (415) 712-1800 to schedule an appointment today.