What to expect from breast reconstruction with tissue expanders and implants

What to expect with the tissue expanders? A good question. We are all individuals and, therefore, each of us experiences something different. One basic, universal experience, however, is “breast hardness” as the saline expansions progress. In my case, I affectionately referred to my breasts as Steel Bullets. What could be harder than steel? My breasts! You may have a different adjective to describe your breasts, or feel free to use mine.

Pain and discomfort are other possible experiences. Some of us are luckier than others in that they experience no pain and very little discomfort. For those who are not as lucky, here are some suggestions to alleviate and/or possibly prevent your pain and discomfort during the expansion process.

First, it is very important to be faithful with your exercises immediately following the mastectomy to maintain good arm movement, which in turn will also affect your chest.

Second, if you develop pain or discomfort during the expansion process and medications like Aleve, Motrin, etc. do not give you relief, consider physical therapy to stretch the arm and chest. Ask your plastic surgeon to write out a prescription for physical therapy. Physical therapy can help break down the adhesions (small bands of scar tissue) thereby improving your range of movement as well as making the expanders feel better.

Third, an assortment of various pillows… all sizes and shapes… makes the breasts feel better, especially while you sleep.

Fourth, increasing the length of time between expansions can be helpful. Some people need more time for their body to adjust to the expansion. Instead of one week for a expansion, make it every two or three weeks. You can also ask to vary the amount they add with each expansion, 20-30mls instead of a full 60mls.

Bear in mind that the tissue expanders are temporary, along with the feelings they are creating. When they are replaced with the implants, either saline or silicone, your breasts will feel much better. Good-bye Steel Bullets! Hello soft and supple breasts!

Lots of Hugs,

Janelle

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