For my breast reconstruction, I elected to do the Expanders with Implants procedure. And here’s where I can tell you details, since I went through it myself. It’s kind of gross, so if you’re feeling squeamish, skip the next few paragraphs. Ok, you’ve been forewarned.
My breast surgeon and my plastic surgeon both conducted this surgery together so that I only had to have one operation. Make sure your surgeons respect each other and are willing to get along if you want them to do this together. Ask them. Believe me, they’ll tell you what they think of each others work.
Gross part alert.
After my breast surgeon performed the mastectomy, my plastic surgeon began the expansion process. He first cut both of my pectoral muscles in half, attached a section of Alloderm (a new skin graft product that is taken from cadavers – yikes) at the bottom of each to create a “pocket” for the expanders and then put the expanders into the pockets, and filled them with 200 cc’s of saline.
The expanders are made out of a thick plastic that is expandable over time; it needs to be thick and fairly solid, in order to stretch your skin out so that over time it will be big enough to put a soft implant in. Over the next several weeks time, my plastic surgeon continued to add more saline (increments of 50 cc’s at a time are my reco – don’t let them do more at one time or you’ll have terrible back pain) until I was comfortable with the size. Three months after my initial surgery of Feb. 14 2011, my plastic surgeon went back in and removed the expanders and replaced them with soft Mentor silicone implants.
Saline vs. silicone was a big decision for me to make. I had expected to do saline based on the concerns I’d heard about silicone from many years ago, but every single doctor, surgeon and plastic surgeon I spoke with said that silicone is much better and very safe. After the scare about 20 years ago, the implant companies re-engineered the silicone implants so that they can not leak, no matter what you do. I’ve seen videos and had it demoed for me and feel very confident that there is no concern with silicone. Above you can see how the newer silicone implants are described as being like a Gummi Bear and even when cut in half, there is no way that the gel inside can leak out into your body. Please make your own decision and do the research, but I was surprised at this, so wanted to let you know.
I’ve also heard that saline feels very heavy and can actually break and thus deflate more easily than silicone (wouldn’t that be odd!?). After the final surgery, they gave me 2 little cards that I am supposed to carry with me which explain the exact make and model of implants that I have. Wonder if I need to whip them out at an airport when I’m getting body scanned – I’ll find out on my next flight and will let you know.
And yes, sadly, they had to remove my nipples. That was very hard for me to deal with, because it makes your breasts look so different and odd, and you lose all sensation in your breasts. But as my sister Sue, so aptly put it, “Oh so what, now you just have Barbie boobs,” and you know, that’s really what they look like. So now, the 60 million dollar question is whether or not I plan on getting nipples created. That’s a whole other deal, and in fact entails 2 more hospital out-patient procedures. For now, I plan to just relax and enjoy the fact that I’m done with the really hard surgeries, and decide about nipples later.
I’ve actually had several women say that they’re jealous, because I won’t ever have the dreaded saggy breasts to worry about. Kind of a crazy thing if you consider what I had to go through to get them, but that’s how nutty we are as a society when it comes to breasts. If you see me, feel free to sneak a look, I won’t be insulted as I totally understand your curiosity.