Self-Care Following Breast Reconstruction Using a Tissue Expander[
This first visit is a good time to bring up any questions you may have. During expansion, the breast mound willnot have the shape and size of the opposite breast. The breast will not take its final form until the permanentimplant is inserted. You will return to your doctor’s office every week for six to eight weeks to complete the expansion process. Beforeeach expansion, your breast mound and incision line will be examined. The tissue expander is inflated with sterilesalt water through the port via a small needle. The expansion takes about twenty minutes each week. You may feelsome tightness and fullness in the breast area and some discomfort in your shoulder or back. It generally gets better within a day or two. After each expansion, you should continue your normal activity. You can return to work or dolight housekeeping a few hours later. You can also drive if you have full range of motion in your shoulder on theoperated side. If your job involves lifting 10 pounds or more, you may need to change your work schedule until itis safe for you to lift heavy weights. If you have any questions, ask your doctor or nurse.
Between expansions, there are a few things you can do at home to feel more comfortable. Warm showers, Tylenol
,or ibuprofen (taken with food), may help ease the tightness and discomfort. You may notice that your skinbecomes dry and flaky as it is expanded. A nonperfumed moisturizer put on once or twice a day can be soothing.Do not put the lotion directly on the incision for the first six weeks. Do not apply a heating pad or warm com-press directly on the breast mound. It is possible to burn the skin because your sensation has changed. Your nurse will show you the stretching exercises you should do at home. During your weekly visits, your nurse will review your progress with these exercises.
Regular exercise after your surgery and during expansion is good for you, but there are some you should not do. Donot do high impact aerobics, jog, lift weights, or swim until your doctor approves. Avoid exercises that build up yourchest muscles (pectoralis). Do the simple exercises shown at the end of the booklet which can be done at home. They will improve your comfort and flexibility.
When you leave the hospital, you will be wearing a surgical bra. After the drains are removed, you may choose to wear your own bra. It should:• Be comfortable.• Not too tight.• Not have an underwire.• Not press directly on the tissue expander.To help balance your appearance in clothing, you may fill your bra with a soft breast form. You can purchase thisfrom the Breast Boutique at the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center (205 E. 64th Street). This breast form is a light- weight nylon pouch, and its size can be adjusted to match the opposite breast by adding or removing the cotton fluff inside. This is especially useful as the breast mound becomes larger during expansion. It can be laundered using amild soap such as Woolite
. It should be washed once a week and then air-dried. Another way to achieve a balanced look is to use shoulder pads, which come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Youmay also line the bra with a soft gauze also available from the nursing staff. Replace the gauze frequently enough tomake sure that it is always clean.