Advice needed

Hi my wife has had a single mastecomy and immediate reconstruction following her second breast cancer in 6 years. Her plastic surgeon, a female surgeon, is to give her a new nipple towards the end of July and has suggest either creating a new nipple from a skin flap or by taking a piece from her other nipple which she says gives the most natural results. The surgeon has also offered to replace my wifes saline expander implant for a silicone one as my wife is having some discomfort from the expander.

My wife is finding it hard to make her mind up as which nipple replace option to choose and whether or not to go ahead and have the silicone implant.

My wife would like if possible to chat, either online or over the phone, to any ladies who have had either of the nipple replacement procedures and any ladies who have had their saline implant replaced by a silicone implant.

Hi CJ,

I thought I would share my experience if this helps you or your wife.

I had expander implants replaced with silicone ones 4 weeks ago. This was 11 months after my original surgery (bilateral mastectomies and immediate recon with expander implants). As the months went by the expander implants became more and more uncomfortable to the stage where I couldn’t get to sleep at night. Also I could feel the ports under the skin which were very hard and different to the rest of the implant.

In the replacement operation (1 hour in theatre/1 night in hospital/3 weeks recovery) the surgeon was able to reposition the implants so they are no longer in the armpit! The silicone implants are definately more natural to feel and very much more comfortable. I’m happy with the result cosmetically and am able to wear some of my clothes from a year ago such as fitted blouses which looked awful with the expanders. It’s early days of course but fingers crossed things will continue settle down well.

I haven’t decided on the nipple question yet - surgeon said we could talk about the options at my next follow up in October. I’ve met a couple of people who have had nipple recon and are very happy with the result. Apparently the procedure is fairly minor and as one person said “there’s something not quite human about having no nipple”. However, I have my doubts about more surgery. I think there are also “stick ons” but not sure if these are worth looking into.

If your surgeon is able to do implant swap and nipple recon in one operation, it sounds like a good option to consider.

Have you tried contacting the Breast Cancer Care peer support service - you just phone the helpline. They try to put you in touch with a trained volunteer who has had similar treatment to talk to on the phone. This really helped me when I was deciding whether to have recon or not. It takes a couple of weeks to get the contact set up but I think well worthwhile.

Best Wishes