This type of breast reconstruction surgery can be performed during the mastectomy surgery or afterwards. But it can only be performed when the surgeon who performed the mastectomy completely saved the skin that covers the breast. The technique involves placing an inflatable breast implant filled with salt-water solution beneath the skin and chest muscle. To achieve the stretching of the skin and muscle, periodically, over several weeks or months, a small amount of this solution is injected to gradually fill the expander. When the skin achieves the desired size (the size of the other breast) the expander is removed and a permanent implant is inserted, although there are cases when permanent expanders are used and do not need to be removed. The nipple and the areola are reconstructed in a subsequent procedure.
During the period of filling the expander, which can last a few weeks or months, the patient can undertake radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatment as prescribed by her doctor with no effect on the breast reconstruction process or on the illness.
It has to be made clear that the breast reconstruction does not affect in any way the disease (does not favour its reappearance), neither interferes, generally, with chemotherapy or other radiation treatments the patient may undertake.