Summary: The road of recovery from breast cancer is never an easy one, but plastic surgeons and medical device makers are always trying to make it just a little bit easier. This is one reason why breast reconstruction surgery has become such a popular post-treatment option. AirXPanders, a medical device firm, is now testing (rather successfully) a device they call AeroForm, which uses carbon dioxide to expand the breast tissue in anticipation of breast implants. The procedure is being met with anticipation.
A Bumpy Road
The road to recovery has never been an easy one. As breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer diagnosed in women, it’s not surprising that many women have, thus, had to travel that road back to recovery. The good news is that a large segment of cosmetic surgery and medicine more broadly has sprung up to make that road as easy as possible, from diagnosis to recovery. The latest advancement in breast cancer recovery is making headway in the final research stages, and looks like it will provide some much needed relief and comfort to women who are battling not only their cancer, but also for control of their bodies.
Devices Designed to Smooth the Surface
The newest innovation in this process is a product called AeroForm, produced by a company called AirXPanders, which specializes in medical devices that assist in reconstruction of the breasts after mastectomy or other breast trauma. The AeroForm is a novel take on an old aspect of a procedure designed to reconstruct the appearance and feel of normal breasts after the removal of normal tissues for the purposes of preventing the spread of breast cancer.
In a typical reconstruction process, women are given saline expanders. Essentially, in order to create room for a breast implant (usually but not always silicone) that will recreate the size and shape of the original breast (if that’s desired—some women choose to change the shape and size), a pocket must be created within the breast muscle structure. This pocket will eventually accommodate a full size implant, but it can be very uncomfortable to start that way. So, plastic surgeons developed a method to slowly increase the size of the pocket using saline injections.
The downside of this process is that it means more time at the clinic. Because they are injections, the saline tissue expanders must be administered by medical professionals and can be, unfortunately, rather uncomfortable (because, again, they are injections). And while plastic surgeons have done everything they can to make it a comfortable experience, the surgeon is ultimately in charge of the rate of expansion, regardless of the comfort of the patient.
AeroForm, on the other hand, puts almost all the control in the hands of the patient, by introducing a remote that controls the expansion. AeroForm is essentially a small implant that the surgeons can place beneath the skin and muscle tissue, but it’s shaped to be anatomically correct, so when it’s time for your real implant, it’s just a matter of slipping one out and the other one in. AeroForm creates the space needed not with saline, as other devices, but with carbon dioxide—essentially, what you exhale when you breath.
In the Air We Breath
AeroForm lets the patient use the remote to program increases in volume when the patient feels it’s necessary or when the patient is comfortable with the next stage in increasing the volume. In other words, the patient is in charge, and many AeroForm users reported using the device was the first time they felt in control of their body since the initial cancer diagnosis. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of that feeling as patients begin the road to reclaiming their bodies.
The AeroForm also seems to accomplish its task faster and with more comfortably than its saline competitors. This has to be confirmed in a whole host of clinical trials before the device is cleared for use, but if the data presented at Plastic Surgery the Meeting in 2014 is any indication, the initial prospects are quite promising, and it might not be long before AeroForm is a viable option for women looking to reclaim their lives.
Getting Your Life Back
In fact, according to the website of the Minneapolis breast reconstruction experts at Minneapolis Plastic Surgery, many women view this last stage of reconstruction as reclaiming their lives, in a way. You get your old body back—or, perhaps more accurately, you stop the cancer from permanently altering your old body.
It’s a complicated and individual issue, so not all women pursue it in the same way, nor should they. There is no one way to recover from a trauma, but plastic surgeons are among those working hard to make every and any way just a little bit easier, the road just a little bit smoother. And that’s not a small deal. That is, in fact, a very big deal. And we’re hoping it continues to get bigger.