At Johns Hopkins, our breast surgical oncologists insert a breast tissue expander beneath your skin and chest muscle during your mastectomy procedure. A mastectomy is a surgery that removes your breast to treat breast cancer.
Then, over several weeks or months, a nurse practitioner will periodically inject a salt-water solution through a tiny valve mechanism located inside the expander. This will gradually fill the expander. You may feel a sensation of stretching and pressure in the breast area during this procedure, but most women find it is not too uncomfortable.
This breast tissue expander process will usually begin three to four weeks after your mastectomy, once your drains are removed, and will continue until the size is slightly larger than your other breast. After the skin over the breast area has stretched enough, the expander will be removed in a second operation and 5dc your doctor will either perform a flap reconstruction, using tissue from other parts of your body to rebuild the breast, or insert a permanent implant. In a later procedure, your surgeon will reconstruct your nipple and the dark skin surrounding it, which is called the areola.