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Tissue expanders

Posts: 1
Joined: Oct 2001

Hi everyone,
I am new to this site, and have been reading all the older messages and information about tissue expanders. I had a mastectomy in Feb and had chemo and now am looking into having an implant with a reduction of the remaining breast. It seems that more women choose implants when they are having both breasts removed, does anyone have experience with having just one implant? Thanks in advance!!

Posts: 173
Joined: Mar 2001

Hi Caro15,

First of all welcome. I am new to this site also, but I am a veteran cancer patient. I had a mastectomy in Jan 1990, with reconstruction of the right breast. I have a silicon implant, plus a smaller implant on the left side for symmetry. I highly recommend implants if nothing more than self esteem. I was 35 when I had my mastectomy and very active. Unless someone knows my history, they can't tell. Most of the women I know just have one implant. Read all the info and make the decision right for you. You have to feel good about yourself.

You have to get up in the morning and love yourself and your body.

Take care and God bless,

Posts: 1
Joined: Apr 2013

Hi everyone,

Thanks a lot for the posts. It is comforting to know that someone understands this feeling.

 I am 33 years old, active duty in the navy. I found out I had breast cancer about 2 months ago. I dont want to go into the details but last Friday ( 12/04) I had a bilateral mastectomy and i had tissue expanders placed. I stayed in the hospital for 2 days, they wanted to kick me out after 1 day but my hubby fought them and said that there was no way he could take me home in the condition I was in. Today is one week post op and I am still in pain. I have trouble getting dressed and doing basic things. What is upsetting about all these is that everything happened so fast when I found out I had cancer and I was made to think that getting a second opinion was time for the cancer to spread so as you can imagine I went into surgery not knowing what tissue expanders would do to my life. The pain is unbelievable and I still have the drains installed. I have been exercising with both my arms, I had a lymph node axillary dissection on my right and it is a little harder to do it but I feel like my life has just been torn apart. The tissue expanders are all over my chest and my armpits. It is just crazy. I called the nurse to ask her if my pain was abnormal and she told me that most patients complain about the pain. I will be going through chemotherapy, radiation and hormonal therapy. I just want these tissue expanders gone. Is there anything I can do to mininize the pain?


Posts: 15
Joined: Nov 2013

how are you doing?? I was diagnosed this July - had a lumpectomy attempted but had to go for the mastectomy when the margins weren't good enough - really didn't do a lot of research on the expander - they made it sound so easy - but knew i wanted some kind of reconstruction. I also had the lymph node dissection - 15 removed - they said that made the expander more uncomfortable. I could not believe the pain & discomfort - fromthe moment i woke up after surgery til now - surgery was Aug 16 - i'm 3 cycles into my 6 cycles of chemo. I went back to both my surgeon & my reconstruction surgeon to check to see if something was wrong with the @@@%^ thing! I had 300cc put in initially - have had 250 added - and he tells me i need a lot more! i guess that's good because there's barely a lump - but it seems like a lot compared to other stories i read.

something about either the chemo or probably the Nulasta shot aggravates it - so that first week after - when i'm suffering from everything else - my chest feels like a rock!

i have tried Aleve etc - muscle relaxers - i don't want to take the strong pain meds because i'm working and i don't like to feel out of it...have you found anything that works? I got lydocaine patches - but the pain is internal...

sorry to rant but i'm just happy to hear someone else has had it with their expander! :)) I'm not quitting now - but i don't know if i would have gone this route if i had known.


sandra4611's picture
Posts: 121
Joined: Sep 2013

Tissue expanders (TE's) are a necessary evil. At times I been happy to have one, at other times, I can't wait to get it out. My exchange surgery is two weeks from today. I have mixed emotions...glad it's here on one hand, apprehension because of the pain and discomfort coming. I have a TE because I got an infection after my Aug 23rd surgery - BMX with immediate reconstruction with implants. In spite of high level IV antibiotics, I had to have another surgery 2 weeks after the first one due to necrosis. I lost about a quarter of the breast area on the side, parts of three muscles and soft tissue under my arm on Sept 6. The implants was removed because there was no longer enough skin to cover it and a TE was placed. I stayed on IV antibiotics at home for a month. 

Because I still had lose skin left on my chest, I was able to get fairly large fills, starting Sept 26...same day the final drain came out There was no discomfort with 180 cc's, a bit of tightness with 240 cc's the next week, some aching with 100 cc's, and achy and tight with the next two 80 cc's. Tylenol worked fine and I added lidocaine patches on my upper chest at times. It was uncomfortable for several hours in the evening after a fill, but gone after that. I have an 800 cc implant and had 680 cc put in with minimal trouble. Then I had a 60 cc fill and the game changed. It felt like it was no longer pressing out, but was now pressing into my chest wall and irritating the nerves. There was a lot of pressure and tightness in addition to pain this time. It only lasted 2 days, but it was enough to make me tell the doc the next week that I didn't want the last 60 cc's. 740 cc's would have to due. Now I would have to wait a month for the next surgery.

I've had it for over two weeks now, fat and swollen, sticking out so far on the top that I can balance a red Solo cup on it! It looks nothing like the other side where the 3 month old implant sits happily. My surgery was supposed to be a "one and done." The bilateral mastectomy took 4 hours and then the plastic surgeon took over for another 4 hours. If I hadn't gotten the infection, this whole thing would have been a piece of cake.

I don't understand why doctors put in tissue expanders instead of implants to begin with. In my book, that's the way to go. I've had it both ways, and while TE's are manageable most of the time, they get "old" real quick!










Clementine_P's picture
Posts: 515
Joined: Feb 2011

I had a bilataeral mastectomy and tissue expanders.  At the beginning the expanders were somewhat painful but that definitely resolved over time.  Nevertheless they were still a presence in my body.  They are hard and unforgiving and for me, that meant that I was always aware of them.  I can tell you, however, that when you get your implants put in you will feel much much more comfortable.  That is what you should look forward to.  My doctor, because my chest was so tight, gave me muscle relaxants to use if the expanders were too uncomfortable.  Maybe when you see your doctor you could ask him if that would be appropriate for you.  Hang in there - this is a scary time but it will be okay in the end.


Posts: 15
Joined: Nov 2013

Thanks for the encouragement, ladies! after reading some of the other discussions i feel ashamed to be whining about my expander!! 

just trying to envision the finish line & wondering if there really is one... 

I can't imagine having both breasts with expanders - kudos to you ladies - they told me immediate implant was not an option - and i do have some muscle relaxers that help somewhat. Just having trouble believing this muscle expansion can really result in anything resembling a breast...but having faith is what this is all about so I will hang in there!


RE's picture
Posts: 4644
Joined: Feb 2004

Hello Carol, I have had a lumpectomy on the left side in 97 amd a mastectomy on the right side in 2007.  I choose to wait 3 years before I had reconstruction just because I needed a break from all the surgeries, it was a personal choice.  I eneded up having the expander with a silicone implant, I also later had nipple reconstruction which I must say once it was all healed it looks quite realistic.   I did have to go in after the initial implant to have it tweaked due to it not staying in place (I am larger breasted) but once the support suctures were done all was fine.  I wish you well, please let us know how things go for you!


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