Several Options available for Breast Reconstruction with Implants
By: Brandy (Korman) Haslam
Every year one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Many are opting for the DIEP flap procedure as a reconstruction option after mastectomy, but some may not be candidates. For those women, implants may be a more suitable option. But what implant is right for you and what are the differences?
Both saline and silicone implants have an outer silicone shell, although they differ in material and consistency.
Saline implants are placed after tissue expanders have been removed and are filled with saline. This type of implant has been criticized for feeling hard or unnatural but improved surgical techniques have lessened these complaints.
Like saline implants, silicone implants are also placed after expanders have been removed. Silicone implants however are pre-filled with silicone gel, a thick sticky fluid that closely resembles the feel of human fat making it more preferable to some women.
A newer procedure called Alloderm One-Step has also been gaining popularity as it allows a permanent implant to be placed immediately after a mastectomy. The implant is covered by the pectoralis muscle and Alloderm, an acellular dermal graft.
The use of expanders is avoided making it an all-in-one procedure suitable for patients undergoing prophylactic nipple-sparing mastectomies.
For patients that aren’t candidates for the DIEP flap or other tissue reconstruction options, these options are often chosen instead.
PRMA patient Elizabeth Nelson says that although she was planning on having the DIEP flap, she ended up not being a candidate, and opted for implants instead.
“You always hear about how the DIEP flap gives you a warm soft breast, and that’s true but my implants also feel warm and natural,” says Nelson. “Even though I really wanted the DIEP, I wasn’t a candidate and after getting implants I look great and feel great.”
Like any surgical procedure, doctors note that there are risks associated with these types of implants and patients are advised to talk with their doctor to discuss the option best suited for them.