Christina Applegate's Mastectomy: FAQ
Breast Cancer Survivor Christina Applegate Opts for Preventive Double Mastectomy and Breast Reconstructive Surgery
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What's involved in breast reconstruction? continued...
Doctors inflate those tissue expanders gradually to stretch the skin and
make room for a permanent salt water or silicone implant. Doing that is an
in-office procedure in which doctors use a syringe to inject more fluid into
the tissue expander, Avisar explains.
That goes on for several months, until the breast reaches the desired size,
and then surgery is done to replace the expanders with permanent implants.
After that, surgeons can create an artificial nipple by raising some of the
new breast's tissue, and then tattoo on coloring to simulate the areola (the
dark area around the nipple). The new breast may also need some cosmetic
How long does breast reconstruction take?
"Give it about a year," says Collins.
For Alvarez, her process took a year and three months. "You have to be so
patient," she says. With all reconstructions, "it takes a long time until you
finally have your final result."
She kept a photographic journal of her progress and shared it with her
colleagues. "I just made it like an educational opportunity. ... We never know
what the patients go through when they leave."
Does it hurt?
Alvarez says she had pain after the mastectomy, but
"the other processes were not as uncomfortable."
After the mastectomy, Alvarez says she was "uncomfortable for about a week
and a half" and did occupational therapy exercises to get her range of motion
What kind of reconstruction is Applegate getting?
She hasn't said. But Good Morning America reports that her
reconstruction will take eight months.
"The majority of patients ... don't go the whole 9 yards," says Avisar.
"Most of them do the first step. Many of them never come back to have the
nipple and areola reconstructed. They are just tired and they have had
Applegate may be different. "She is an actress and may be more aware of her
body," says Avisar.
Are patients satisfied with the reconstructed breast?
It depends on their expectations and the cosmetic results.
"If a patient is expecting to be happy because she's alive, she's going to
be happier than the patient who puts, as the most important thing, her
appearance -- and may be disappointed because what she sees is not what she
pictured," says Avisar.