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expander fills - what to expect?

Posts: 26
Joined: Jul 2012

I had a tissue expander put in my left side on Friday. Beginning Tuesday, I will go in twice a week to have it filled until mid-October when I will have my right side removed and both sides reconstructed My left side is still very tender and twice the side of my right side. It's like the PS stuck a grapefruit in there. I am a fairly small person (5'4" 100 pounds). I am going to have to go down from a D to probably a B, since I am having the tram-flap procedure, so I'm not sure why the left side is already so much larger. I have no idea what to expect on Tuesday as far as the amount of time, the amount of pain, etc. Does the pain decrease/increase as time goes on? Is my left side going to continue to get bigger? Trying to figure out what to do for a bra right now is frustrating. I teach in a high school. I watched the video as far as the tram-flap procedure, but I feel really in the dark as far as these fills go. I was surprised at the amount of pain after the expander surgery, as well as the size of the expander. I am hoping to go into this a little more educated.

jendrey's picture
Posts: 377
Joined: Sep 2009

I'm a little confused. Do you mean to say that you'll be having your right breast removed in October or that you currently have an expander in place on the right side? Really, I'm thinking you're having a prophylactic mastectomy on your right breast with immediate reconstruction?

I had my expander placed at the same time as my mastectomy. Then every couple of weeks I'd have the expander filled. They due like to over fill the expander so there is working room so to speak.

As for a bra you may want to try wearing a sports type bra. The kind that look like a short halter top made out of lycra and/or spandex. It'll give you extra support and should help relieve some of the pain from not currently having any support for the expander.

Target has a really big selection of sports bras and reasonable prices. I like to shop Ross for really good prices and TJ Max for the prettiest versions!


Posts: 26
Joined: Jul 2012

I had my left side removed in January. They didn't place an expander then because my onc wanted me to wait until all treatment was over (I finished in July). I will also be having my right side removed in October. The right side will be immediate reconstruction, and they will reconstruct the left side at the same time even though it will have been gone 10 months by that time. They placed the expander in the left side last week to build enough skin to be able to make the breasts symmetrical. I guess I didn't explain things very well.

I just bought several sports bras as Kohls. They're the type that go over my head though, and I'm having trouble raising my arm on my left side, so I may have to find some that hook in the front.

As far as getting the expander filled, is is painful? Thanks :)

Posts: 191
Joined: Jun 2012

after my mastectomy that didn't have underwire (with not much energy to do much shopping) was a maternity bra! It worked out great, because if I wanted to have support, but not have my incision pressed on, I could open it up! I had an immediate silicone implant, with no expansions necessary, so can't help you there.


Clementine_P's picture
Posts: 516
Joined: Feb 2011

My expander fills were once every other week. I can't say that I experienced any pain with it at all. How it works is the PS's assistant will take a little tool that is magnetic and hold it up to your body where the expander is. That will "point" to the portal for the expander. Then she would take a pen and make a little black dot there. I would sit on the chair and the PS would come in. Don't get freaked out by the size of the needles! They don't hurt at all. He would just push in the needle where the black dot was and gave me a fill. It would take approximately 5 minutes from beginning to end. Afterwards, for about a day, I would feel tightness in my chest but no pain. I never even needed a Tylenol. Then a tiny bandaid for where the needle went it and that was it. I was told that they expand you 10-15% larger than your implant will be because they need some room to move around in there while they are doing the exchange surgery and that your muscle will tighten up around the implant. I too am 5'4 and about 110 pounds so am close to the same size that you are. The expanders feel hard and unforgiving unlike the actual implants. When you get your implants you will feel much more comfortable.

Here is a video I found on Youtube of a woman that had all of her fills recorded just so that others could see it and not be afraid. It most definitely took the mystery out of it for me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bGdeeONw1o

Best, Clementine

Posts: 26
Joined: Jul 2012

Thank you for suggesting the Youtube video. I never would have thought of that. I watched it, and you're right, it makes me feel much better knowing what to expect. I'm glad to know the pain won't be too bad. Right now I'm still so sore from where they put the exander in, I dread that breast being touched at all.

I decided to go tram-flap instead of implants. I'm sure I'll have a lot of questions about that as the surgery gets closer.

Thanks so much!! :))

VickiSam's picture
Posts: 9085
Joined: Aug 2009

A little late .. but I am going to add my 2 cents ...
TE insert at the time of my bilateral mastectomy. 3 weeks later, I had my first fill of 120cc per breast. There is a pinch when the needle enters each breast -- and later there is a tightness due to the increase of fluids. Try try try 60 cc first go around to to gage what you will be dealing with. Just a suggestion.

Ibuprofen taken 1 hours before fill helps, as well as frozen peas (lighter than an ice pack) placed on each breast to help with the inflammation due to fill.

If insurance permits .. I would recommend a 2nd or 3rd opinion. Do what is best
for you.

Strength, Courage and Hope.

Vicki Sam

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