Is Sleeping with Tissue Expanders Painful?

After I was diagnosed at age 36, I started my treatment journey with a bilateral mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery. In this post, I will talk more about the process of breast reconstruction including my experience with tissue expanders, a term I had never heard of prior to having breast cancer.

My Mastectomy

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, I never really struggled with the idea of a bilateral mastectomy. Right after hearing the radiologist say he was 95% certain I had breast cancer, I decided I wanted both boobs completely removed. ASAP.

Quite frankly I was incredibly mad at them. I felt like my breasts had deceived me, and I no longer wanted them anywhere near me. In the blur of events that started with my ultrasound and then my biopsy, I remember trying to think positively. I told myself that after having two kids, I could really use some new boobs.

I kept thinking it wouldn’t be that bad. My surgeon would remove my gross cancer boobs, and I would gain some perky new friends. No big deal. Well, unfortunately it’s not that easy. At my initial consultation with my plastic surgeon, he brought up the term tissue expanders.

What are tissue expanders?

Tissue expanders are breast implants that can be inflated while they are in your chest. The purpose of a tissue expander is to stretch your skin to prepare it for an actual breast implant. Prior to having breast cancer, I naively thought a bilateral mastectomy consisted of removing old boobs and putting in new “permanent” implants. End of story.

Sadly, that is not the way it works….at least in my situation. Instead, my timeline for new boobs was as follows:

  • September 2018: Double mastectomy/insert tissue expanders
  • Octobober-April: Inflate the tissue expanders little by little each week while going through chemo
  • May 2019: Remove half of the saline from each tissue expander for radiation therapy
  • July: Re-fill the tissue expanders after completing radiation
  • May 2020: Exchange surgery where tissue expanders are replaced with actual implants


As mentioned above, in September of 2018, I had a bilateral mastectomy. During this surgery, my plastic surgeon put tissue expanders in my chest in place of my breast tissue. After giving me a couple weeks to recover from the surgery, my plastic surgeon then began filling the expanders little by little.

Each week he would add a little more saline to inflate the expanders….kind of like blowing up a balloon. This process was not the most comfortable; although, I should note that I am a big baby and have heard other women say it didn’t phase them at all.

The actual filling of the tissue expander didn’t hurt. My doctor sprayed numbing spray on the access site before placing the needle in. My chest still had very little feeling from the mastectomy, so I didn’t really feel anything when the expanders were being inflated.

However, after the tissue expanders were filled, I found the stretching of my skin to be painful. I got to the point where I allowed my plastic surgeon to insert only 20 cc’s at each appointment. Before that, I was receiving closer to 50 cc’s, and my skin would feel incredibly sunburned for days and days. Once my doctor reduced the amount he inflated, I didn’t have the sunburned feeling anymore.

Uncomfortable Pain

Tissue expanders don’t feel great, but the good news is you eventually get pretty used to them. Each time my expanders were filled, I noticed some minor back pain. This was due to me having to readjust my posture for the new weight on my chest.

My biggest complaint with the tissue expanders is the rib pain that I felt. The ribs that surround the tissue expanders (on both sides of my chest) felt sore and bruised constantly. My doctor even ordered an X-ray to see if one of them could be fractured. Thankfully the X-ray was clear, and he determined the expanders were probably just digging into my ribs.

Once I had my exchange surgery where the actual breast implants were placed, I no longer felt rib pain. Sometimes if I press in certain spots along the underside of my implants, I do still feel like they are bruised. However, the pain is nowhere near as bothersome as it once was.

Sleeping with Tissue Expanders

If you like sleeping on your back, you will have no issue sleeping with tissue expanders. It is also possible to sleep on your side; although, the rib pain may become worse if you sleep on your side. I think it’s because side sleeping puts pressure on the side of the expander, which then puts pressure on the ribs.

Sleeping on your stomach would be incredibly uncomfortable because the tissue expanders would be pressed into your rib cage. Once you heal from your mastectomy, you will be able to determine what is comfortable for you.

I always found that sleeping on my back was the safest, but it was hard to sleep like that all night long. So, I always tried to rotate onto each side for a short period of time throughout the night. Overall, I didn’t really feel like the tissue expanders hindered the sleeping process for me. Your body will just tell you what’s comfortable and you eventually adapt to it.

Deflation before Radiation

My radiation oncologist requested that my plastic surgeon reduce the size of my tissue expanders before radiation began. This is because they were so perky that she was afraid they would be in the way of the radiation beam.

Luckily, it’s super easy to remove saline from the expanders. I believe if you do proton therapy rather than traditional radiation you have to completely remove the tissue expanders though.

Exchange Surgery Recovery

Because I ended up needing radiation, I had to wear my tissue expanders longer. It is my understanding that radiated skin is tighter and doesn’t heal as well. Therefore, my plastic surgeon wanted me to wait at least six months after radiation before completing the tissue expander exchange surgery.

picture of pink flowers with text overlay Breast Reconstruction with Tissue Expanders

After six months, my doctor felt like I needed a bit more time because my radiated breast was REALLY tight. He finally cleared me for surgery eight months after I completed radiation. The pandemic hit and the country began to shut down at this time, though, and my “elective” surgery was ultimately canceled.

Two months later, in May 2020, I was able to have my tissue expanders removed and replaced with breast implants. This was an outpatient surgery, and it lasted about four hours total.

Tissue Expanders vs Implants

Recovery from tissue expander exchange surgery is A BREEZE compared to a mastectomy. When I went home after surgery, I felt pretty groggy, but I felt almost no pain whatsoever. I was so relieved and happy to have soft implants finally in my breasts.

You can immediately feel a huge difference, and it’s such a relief! The day after surgery was when I felt the worst. My incision sites on both breasts stung pretty badly. I took my prescribed pain medication on this day, but then I didn’t need them any more after that.

**I am going to give you the most random piece of advice now, but it was a life changer for me… maxi pads for this surgery! My nurse mentioned putting a maxi pad under each breast to help any oozing. I didn’t really have any oozing; however, the pads did WONDERS for the incision pain.

My post surgery bra constantly rubbed against the incision sites making them so uncomfortable. The maxi pads kept the garments from rubbing against my cuts, and I never had another problem with pain!

Living with Expanders

For two years, I went through surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. I’m currently still on hormone therapy since my tumor was Estrogen and Progesterone positive.

My tissue expanders were with me through it all. They aren’t the most comfortable things to have attached to your chest, but luckily they are temporary!

Similar Posts


  1. Thanks to all who shared I had my left breast mastectomy with 3 lymph nodes removed and expander at same time 5/16/24. Pain discomfort yes and I had chemo prior to surgery. Now I will have radiation beginning as soon as my 2nd drain is removed and doctor said they will start filling expander also. I thought filling was after radiation? My radiation will be for 4-6 weeks every day. Then doctor said wait few months recover then the reconstruction surgery ? I’m so afraid of getting infection and or lymphedema.

  2. I had right mastectomy and have tissue expander for a little less than 2 weeks now. It feels so heavy and uncomfortable, not to mention, rib pain. I was told TE is a 375cc and filled 200-250cc during the surgery. I am scheduled to have it filled every 3-4 weeks! I am scared! Not even sure if I want another surgery to exchange. However, knowing that it is so much better after the exchange makes me change my mind and looking forward to it. Thank you for sharing your experiences. The question I have now is, would it be better to have tissue flap or abdomen surgery than implant?

    1. Hi SMB,

      I completely understand what you are going through with the tissue expanders. They are incredibly uncomfortable and hard to ignore. Like you, I was afraid of additional surgeries, but the exchange surgery was amazing! The actual implants feel so much better than those hard tissue expanders. I did not have a tissue flap or abdomen surgery, but maybe another reader will respond with their experience. Hoping it all goes well for you!

  3. Hi Shari. I’m hanging in there with my fills. The breasts that I had removed were 700cc and I would like to get close to that. I’m currently at 400cc (I made it halfway!).

    I’m a stomach sleeper, so it’s been rough. I found a round cylinder pillow that has been super helpful to keep me pushed up when laying on my side.

    I also bought some Fruit of the Loom front closure sport bra’s, which have been amazing.

    I’m looking forward to my exchange surgery-thanks for the reassurance. It can’t be worse then the BMX.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

    1. Hey April,

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience! It sounds like you are really making progress and getting closer to your exchange surgery. It’s really a walk in the park compared to a double mastectomy! I wish you all the best as you complete your fills. Thanks again for taking the time to share!

    2. I am in the same boat. I’m at 500 out 700. I’m so ready for these expanders to be out. They are the devil! I still can’t find a sports bra that doesn’t rub under my breasts. That part stays sore. I’m going to try the fruit of the loom bra now. Thanks

      1. I had a bilateral mastectomy on 9/22/22 with tissue expanders placed. I had to go back into surgery as I formed a hematoma and it had to be surgically repaired. My tissue expanders were so hard and painful that I was taking ibuprofen and using lidocaine patches at night to relieve discomfort..yes these expanders were designed by a man!!! Anyhow, my saline fills were somewhat painful but I do have a high pain tolerance so I made it through until my exchange with implants that are so soft and perfect!!! People don’t realize what breast cancer is all about until it touches them…I was very lucky and so grateful that I was stage 1, with no lymph involvement and found at my mammogram and ultrasound appointment…on hormone therapy for estrogen and progesterone positive…but extremely grateful that it was contained and didn’t need radiation or chemo. Ladies we stand together and are support for one another and are remarkable women!!!

  4. Hi Shari! I also had a double mastectomy in Feb.’22 and have expanders while undergoing chemo. Fortunately, my surgeon was able to get my radiologist to put off radiation after chemo to fit my reconstruction in between. I hate the expanders and do not want to wait the 6 mos after radiation. This is as long as taxol continues without any issue. I also feel alot of jabbing on my sides with the expanders and sleeping is very uncomfortable. I am a side and stomach sleeper. Thank you for sharing your story and helping so many of us feel that we aren’t going through this alone!

    1. Hi Joey,

      Aren’t tissue expanders so uncomfortable?! I’m glad you are able to have your exchange surgery sooner rather than later. You must feel so relieved! It took quite a bit of time, but I’m now able to comfortably sleep on my side again. You may find that sleeping on your stomach is more difficult, but it may not bother you. Thank YOU for sharing your experience, and I wish you all the best as you complete your treatment!

  5. I found sleeping on my love seat was the most comfortable Bed pillow at one end Slightly angled up and feet up on other end And i sleep great I tried going to bed but expanders hurt 5 weeks im still on love seat I start fills next week Hope it Relieve some of the pain from my expanders can’t wait for the day for the exchange

    1. Hi Nancy,

      Thanks so much for sharing your tips on sleeping with tissue expanders. I’m happy to hear that you are about to start your fill process. I hope everything goes smoothly for you and that you get your exchange surgery soon! Best wishes to you during your recovery!

  6. I was diagnosed 7/7/2020 with invasive lobular breast cancer. (56 years old) Chemo….Red Devils then Taxole. Bald at Christmas but was told I didn’t need radiation. Bilateral 1/18/2021. My pathology results showed it spread to my lymph nodes so 3 weeks later they were removed. 8 full weeks to recover then 35 rounds of radiation 2 times a day. I have to wait a year after radiation to start reconstruction. Hopefully my doctor will get started in June 2022. I’m nervous about him cutting back into my scars and I’ve heard stories about infection and removals. I seem to have had every side effect in chemo and am finally feeling better. A lot of swelling with the LN gone. I am truly blessed to have great blood work results!!! I has been a long JOURNEY!!! God Bless

    1. Hi Angela,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your diagnosis. It sounds like you have been dealing with a lot, and hopefully 2022 will be better for you! I’m not sure if there are different ways plastic surgeons perform reconstruction, but my doctor did not cut into the same scars. My mastectomy scars are vertical lines on my breasts. The reconstruction scars are underneath each breast, so you really can’t see them at all. Hopefully your swelling goes down and your June surgery will be a piece of cake! Thanks for reaching out and I wish you all the best.

      1. Hi Shari , i am 7 weeks post skin sparing mastectomy, i find my port has settled now but played up a bit when I had expansion two weeks ago. I find this implant constantly uncomfortable and gets really painful the more I do, it cramps and ripples at times and then I experience stabbing pains in it . It seems to be ok when I wake up and then gets continually more painful as the day goes on.

        1. Hi Julie,

          Thanks so much for reaching out. Are you saying that your port or your implant is uncomfortable and causing pain? If it’s your implant, I would talk to your plastic surgeon to see what he/she says. If it’s your port, mine was often uncomfortable as well. I felt sensations like it was tearing something in my skin. You would probably want to mention that to your doctor as well. Hope you are able to get the pain sorted out. I wish you all the best in your recovery!

  7. I am 4 weeks post bilateral mastectomy with tissue expanders and oh my God they were so made by a man!!! The uncomfortable feeling never goes away! I’ve had one fill with 250 cc’s and it feels so tight. Also bad rib pain. I feel like I live on ibuprofen and muscle relaxers. My plastic surgeon told me to wear a sports bra 24/7 and I am going crazy. Also major sleep problems as it is uncomfortable to sleep on my side. I cannot wait for this part of the journey to be over with and I cannot wait to have my exchange surgery!
    Thank you for this post. I’m sorry for anyone who had to go through this but it is comforting to talk to someone who has!

    1. Hi Becky,

      You are so right about the expanders! There is no way a woman designed these things. Ha! I hope you are able to get used to the tissue expanders so that you can sleep comfortably. I ended up having mine longer than I was supposed to due to the pandemic. It was such a bummer when my elective surgery was canceled. Just keep looking forward to your exchange surgery because the real implants feel AMAZING compared to those hard bricks! 🙂

  8. Hi, I was diagnosed July 2021, had bilateral mastectomy 9/15/21 I have been so blessed I’ve had no problems and very little pain so I’ve not taken any pain meds. I am now going through radiation, I’ve been blessed not to have chemo. 20 more treatments and hopefully get rid of these expanders and move on! I pray God blesses you all and keeps us in his will.

    1. Hi Kathy,

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. It’s wonderful to hear that you haven’t had much pain with your mastectomy. You must feel so relieved and grateful! I wish you all the best as your complete radiation.

  9. I’m 63 & had bilateral mastectomy 9-20-21 with expanders put in at the same time. I’ve had enormous pain over the first 4 weeks that pain meds didn’t control very well. I am sleeping 2-3 hours a day, only from exhaustion and dozing off. I can’t stand to walk because my boobs are jiggling everywhere & it’s so uncomfortable. I’ve tried 15 different types of sports bras without relief. I got my first saline fill of 100cc on 10-21-21 & that actually helped the jiggling but I still hold onto them when walking or bending. I’ve had a lot of depression & wondering if I made the right decision on having reconstruction. It seems like this will never end! I’m in it though so I have no choice but to be patient and hope this ends soon. I had no idea about breast cancer and the suffering it causes so this has given me an entire new type of compassion and understanding for women going through this. I wish the best to all of you and hope you stay positive as I will try to do!

    1. Hi Cici,

      I’m so sorry to hear that your recovery has been so painful. Hopefully, with time, you will start to feel better. It’s so frustrating in the beginning…both emotionally and physically. Just try to stay positive, which I know is easier said than done. My advice would be to focus each day on the present day only AND to confidently tell yourself that each month will be better than the last. You will get there. It just takes a long time, and it’s so hard to be patient. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I hope you feel better soon!

  10. Thank you for sharing! Any tips for sleep would be so appreciated. I am almost 4 weeks post mastectomy with tissue expanders and have not slept through the night since my surgery. I’m usually awake 3-5 times a night, and sometimes can’t fall back asleep at all. I’ve tried various pillow placements, including a pregnancy pillow, over the counter sleep aids, melatonin… everything. I can’t seem to sleep on my back.

    1. Hi L,

      I’m so sorry to hear you are having such a difficult time sleeping with your expanders. Like you, I found them to be incredibly uncomfortable, but I did manage ok as long as I stayed on my back. Since that is not working for you, I’m not sure what other tips I could give. Hopefully another reader will see your comment and share some advice that will help!

  11. Hi,
    I was just diagnosed in August and had my double mastectomy just over 2 weeks ago. It so good to hear I’m not alone with these expanders. I feel like a science experiment is happening on my chest. I mean these things had to be designed by a man, right? Just kidding. I’ve been having a burning sensation (can’t stand any clothes to touch my skin), but in my mind I thought it was nerve damage from the mastectomy, not from my first fill. You have me second guessing that. I feel like I have the worst sunburn ever. My skin doesn’t look too tight and I still have room for more fills., but maybe my nerves are angry at that extra pressure on them. I also have a spot that’s about to poke through my skin. We thought it was my drain, but when we removed the drain you could still see it. It’s small, but keeps catching on something near my skin that brings me to tears. I didn’t even feel any of my four drains being removed, so I think my pain tolerance it’s pretty good. My ribs feel bruised as well, but I thought it was from the drains, but after reading this maybe I’m wrong about that too. Very tough going through this with so much attention right now on breast cancer and cancer awareness. Emotionally I’m all over the place., but thank god for my family and my therapist. Thanks for sharing your experience and helping others going through this. Can’t wait for those soft implants. 💕

    1. Hi KJ,

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Everything you’re going through sounds so familiar to me. Hopefully you will start to feel much better as your body continues to heal from surgery. My plastic surgeon always told me that tissue expanders HAD to be created by a man. I guess they serve their purpose, but wow are they uncomfortable! Continue to stay positive and look forward to the regular implants. I wish you all the best in your recovery!

  12. Thank you for writing about hit experience. It is helpful to read and also encouraging to know things get better!!
    I had very intense pain in my chest after my third fill of 50 ccs which brought me just a touch larger than my original breast size. I had read and was told that I could have some “minor discomfort” so i was caught off guard by how much my chest muscles throbbed that might. I’m an endurance athlete and have always had a high pain tolerance so I thought something was wrong. Ibuprofen and Tylenol didn’t cut it and at 1 in the morning I was in tears with throbbing pain and ended up taking an oxycodone that I had left over from surgery. I hope to increase my breast size slightly so I will Plan to do smaller fills moving forward.

    I am putting on a moisturizer twice a day to prevent stretch marks and I find the process of applying it to each breast to be very disconcerting. The hardness of the expander coupled with the lack of sensation is so foreign and strange.
    I am happy to hear you felt immediate relief after your exchange surgery and look forward to that. I am so grateful for this surgery even with all the discomfort and pain. Wishing you all the best for your continued recovery and health!!

    1. Hi Sarah,

      I’m so sorry to hear you are having such painful responses to the expander fills. Like you, I had difficulty sleeping the night of each fill. Mine felt like a horrible sunburn on my chest. After my doctor decreased the cc’s at each fill, I didn’t have a problem. Hang in there because the actual implants you get at the exchange surgery make it totally worth it! Thanks for sharing!

    2. Omg this is kinda comforting to read. I’m a little over 2 weeks post bilateral mastectomies with tissue expanders. I had my first fill yesterday: 650cc each boob. I was sooooo sore last night. Advil wasn’t cutting it. I broke down and took a Percocet in the middle of the night. I barely took those post surgery! My doctor wants to fill me weekly, so that it’s more gradual. I’m really hoping I’m not in such agony after my next fill.

      1. Hey Sarah,

        I’m so glad you found this post helpful. Hopefully your tissue expander fills are getting easier for you. It’s definitely an adjustment in lots of different ways. I wish you all the best in your recovery! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Thank you so much! this has been quite the journey – I had my bilateral mastectomy July 20, have had post surgical complications requiring a second surgery, which also means a longer time with the expanders – truly the most uncomfortable thing ever. Hoping the next set goes well. I too have thin skin, so I am not sure how the fill will go – I assume slowly. it is good to know that you do get “used:” to them although I am not believing that at this minute – but will keep the faith! from what I understand the fill amount depends on the person anywhere from 25cc and up. I anticipate being on that low end to allow my skin to stretch appropriately.

    It is nice to hear others have had similar experiences – thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Hi Jen,

      I’m so sorry to hear you have had complications from your double mastectomy AND that you have to wear your expanders even longer. Aren’t they the weirdest things to get used to?! I can’t remember my fill amount, but I think my doctor started at like 100. That didn’t work so well for my body, so I finally talked him into decreasing it to like 40 or 50. You will feel so much better once you get the actual implants placed so hang in there! Thanks for sharing, and I wish you all the best in your recovery.

      1. Shari,

        I’m so glad I found this blog. Thank you for sharing your experience. I had my bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction on 12/8/21. I hate expanders and I’m having hard time coping with not being able to feel parts of my skin. My first film was on 1/13/22. It wasn’t to awful. I noticed the skin on one breast is shinier. I also need radiation. One of the node had cancer. My plastic surgeon said radiation will change the way my breast looks. Did you use any creams to help stretch marks and reduce radiation side affects? Do you feel that radiation had an effect to overall outcome on your breast?

        Thank you

        1. Hi Kristina,

          Thanks so much for reaching out. I know that not having feeling in parts of your skin is so weird initially, but I eventually got used to it. My plastic surgeon instructed me to use Aquaphor during radiation, and it helped. All of my doctors seem really impressed with the way my skin held up during radiation, but I can definitely tell a difference between the way my breasts look. The radiated one is slightly tanned and smooth looking, which is actually an improvement compared to the non-radiated breast. Ha! The skin on my radiated breast is a lot tighter though. My implant moves easily in my regular breast, but the radiated skin seems almost glued to the implant it’s so tight. It’s not uncomfortable, but it is a bit different. Hope that helps and I wish you all the best as you complete treatment!

  14. Hello I’m having the problem of not being able to put much in my expanders. I got to 390cc and it was so painful I actually cried the day after my last injection. So that’s going to leave me with itty bitty boobs. I have my breast exchange 4/04/2021. I most definitely will be glad to get these rocks off my chest.was wondering has anybody else had this experience.

    1. Hi Cathy,

      Thank you for reaching out. I’m not sure how many cc’s I eventually had injected, but it became painful for me as well. Any time my plastic surgeon injected anything over 50 cc, I felt like I had a massive sunburn. Hopefully your exchange surgery goes well for you, and you are happy with your results!

  15. I had my bilateral mastectomy on December 22, 2020. I had the expanders placed as well. My big thing is they remind me of the little plastic squeaky in dog toys. I mean really it’s like hard plastic. My doctor insist that I wear a bra 24/7. I have had to have skin grafts a couple of times but I believe that the current grafts are going to work. Hopefully I can get the implants placed in about a month. I pray for all my fellow warriors as we fight.

    1. Hi Jan,

      Thank you for sharing your experiences. You are totally right about the squeaky dog toy! I never thought of tissue expanders that way, but they are like really hard to squeeze plastic toys. I hope your skin grafts work and that you are able to receive your implants soon. They are sooo much more comfortable! Best wishes to you!

  16. I had a double masectomy with expanders on 1/20/21. Sometimes it feels like someone is trying to open my chest from the inside. Is that how your chest hurts? Also, on the bottom side, I have a burning sensation when I have walked around too much.

    1. Hi Diane,

      Thank you for sharing your experience with tissue explanders. Hopefully your pain will continue to subside as time goes on. I don’t remember feeling like someone was opening my chest from the inside, but I do recall a lot of changing sensations. Like you, I would describe some of them as burning sensations. I have noticed that using my muscles can create uncomfortable feelings even now when I am two years out from surgery. For example, doing yoga, moving furniture, and sleeping on my “bad” side can all make my chest hurt. Since your surgery was recently, I would expect the sensations to gradually get better. Always let your doctor know, though, in case he/she can help. I hope your recovery gets better and I wish you all the best!

  17. I have a question about the implant exchange surgery. My doctor said the surgery will include drains for 2 weeks after. Did you go through this, too? I had that for the bilateral mastectomy, but, didn’t expect it for the exchange.
    Bless all of you!

    1. Hi Ann,

      I did not have to have drains for my exchange surgery. My doctor told me he would have to decide during the surgery whether or not to place drains. He said part of his decision would be based on the type of implants he put in. Luckily, I woke up from surgery without drains.

  18. I am one month living with my tissue expander after left mastectomy. I don’t reel like it’s ever going to get better. Then to find out that they will have to remove some of the saline prior to radiation therapy, UGGGHHH. It’s all part of the journey though. I have to learn to embrace each step. All part of recovery!
    Thank you for sharing your journey. It’s nice to know that we aren’t alone!

    1. Amanda,

      Although tissue expanders are awfully uncomfortable, you do get (somewhat) used to them. As long as I slept mainly on my back, they eventually stopped bothering me constantly. So, just keep reminding yourself that it does get better! Also, you may not have to have the saline removed for radiation. My doctor initially told me she could work around the saline until she saw the actual state of my breasts. Ha! So, maybe your doctor can work with what you have. Either way, I wish you all the best with your treatment!

  19. Thank you for sharing your journey with Us. I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in January 2020. I had a Bilateral Mastectomy with tissue expanders as well. I was blessed that I didnt have to have Chemo or Radiation. My Doctor put 30 cc of fluid in at the time of Surgery and that was to much,it wouldn’t allow my skin and it set up Septic, so they had to go back in and take fluid out and clean out the infection. Once the drain tubes came out I could lay on my side with little pain but yes, I know what you mean when you say your Ribs hurt. I start the “Filling” of the expanders today and Im a little nervous but after reading your post I dont fill alone in this battle. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hi Andra,

      Thank you for commenting. I’m so sorry to hear you had a difficult time with your tissue expanders initially. Hopefully you are on the mend and feeling better. I had my exchange surgery recently, and the actual implants are soooo much more comfortable than the hard expanders. So, hang in there because it gets better!

  20. Thank you for sharing your journey with breast cancer. I am on my expanders for 3 months., and they are the most uncomfortable thing attached to my chest. I would like to ask how was your exchange surgery? God bless.

    1. Maria,

      Thank you for reaching out. Aren’t tissue expanders so uncomfortable?!?! I found that they do get better though. I guess you get used to them eventually. My exchange surgery has been pushed back due to the Coronavirus. My surgery is now scheduled for later this month! I will give an update a I recover so check back in a few weeks!

  21. I thank God for your comments. Your experience sounds just like mine. While experiencing rib pain I kept thinking there was cancer.
    Thank you and may God continue to bless you on your journey.

    1. Hi Sharon,

      Isn’t the rib pain terrible?! Mine has gotten better since finishing Taxol. I also continue to notice that it gets bad if I sleep on that side. As long as I stay off of it, it’s not too bad. I still have my tissue expanders in place, so my ribs do still hurt a little from those. Thank you for commenting, and I hope your pain gets better!

      1. Hi
        I have a question for anyone willing to answer. I received my tissue expander a week ago and am still healing. I’m wondering about when I have to return to work in 2 weeks. Is it going to be possible to wear a bra and prosthetic until I get enough saline in there? I feel like it’s still going to be sore especially by my ribs and a bra band will just create more pain.

        1. Hi there!

          Great question! I didn’t wear a bra at all with tissue expanders because I found them so uncomfortable. This may sound bizarre, but I actually wore a “belly band” from when I was pregnant. It was really soft and didn’t dig into my skin at all. I folded it to give a double layer on my chest, but I had my nipples removed so I didn’t really have much to hide. Maybe someone else will chime in with better advice!

          1. Thank you for sharing. I started my “journey” at the end of May and it’s been hell trying to be “strong” LOL. I had my double mastectomy the end of July and expanders were put in at that time. I was only going to get one removed but after talking to people and seeing how often cancer comes back i decided the last week to get both taken off and i sure am glad i did because they did find cancer in the other one just starting and it wasn’t picked up earlier. anyway i stayed strong and stayed strong and now i am falling apart emotionally. i guess it’s the pandemic, work, and the expanders. when i was recovering from the mastectomy my expanders felt like a ring of thorns digging into the raw meat of my wounds. the fills were painless until after. then it would give me pressure for a few days until time for the next fill. the pain was ok until the the last few fills i couldn’t take it anymore. my “thorns” digging into my skin turned into hard plastic digging into my skin. now it just feels like a tight band around my chest like the tightest underwire bra ever worn but you can’t take it off. sometimes i regret not going ‘flat” I feel like my recovery would have been quicker, but here I am, 2 weeks until my exchange surgery and it’s a real possibility that it will be cancelled due to covid. I’ve tried to be so careful but we can’t stop this virus. I’m trying not to be a brat about it but I am soooo sick of these torturous expanders. they couldn’t do nipple sparing because there was too much cancer and i haven’t worn a bra since i got home because it would have been too painful on my sutures. i actually don’t plan on wearing a bra again. i have no nipples and don’t want any cause i can’t feel anything anyway and the reconstructed nipples look so bizarre to me. i still need to have procedures every 3 months to make them look better. i guess its grafting or snipping off side skin? i am soooo sick of my boobs . it’s hard to get them off my mind when they feel uncomfortable 24/7. cbd and vaping thc helps tremendously with the pain at the end of the day and also lying flat on my bed. stretching out helps the whole rib thing. I am mostly worried about my emotional health right now and I’m glad i have a therapist throughout this life changing ordeal. i have my good days and bad days and just try and put one foot in front of the other during this pandemic. my coworker who got breast cancer a year ahead of me only got one breast off and now she has it again. it’s stage 4 and i’m so sad for her and her family and for my cousin’s daughter who died in her early 30’s a couple years ago from breast cancer. i think i am at the angry/sad stage right now. btw, the brca tests were all negative so this is from our environment. what is it? plastic? twinkies? makeup? who knows but it’s a real crime when young people have to suffer. I would like to know if any sensation comes back to the fake boobs if anyone has any info. if i get nipples will i be able to feel anything? because if not, i’m not going to bother

          2. Hi Chris,

            I have to start by saying that I LOVE your honesty. Thank YOU for taking the time to write out what so many of us are feeling or have felt. It sounds like you are still early on in your breast cancer “journey” but it will get better! I’m so relieved for you that you decided to have a double mastectomy rather than “just” the single. Like you, I have also heard stories where cancer was found in the “good” breast. Your experience with tissue expanders sounds a lot like mine. They are horrible. They are uncomfortable. They hurt. I had my expanders in place for almost two years before I was able to have my exchange surgery. My ribs are still sore from those things, but the implants feel sooooo much better! My initial surgery was postponed in the spring because of the pandemic. So, I had to wait two extra months before I was allowed to have this “elective” surgery. Even if your surgery is postponed, you will get there too! The exchange surgery is a piece of cake, and your chest will feel amazingly better! I still don’t have feeling on my breasts very much, and I assume that I would not have any sensation if I got nipples. Maybe someone who has experienced that can chime in because I still have not decided on what to do in that department. As for your emotional and mental health, I think it’s great that you are seeking help as this whole experience definitely takes a toll on you. I still have my days where I feel really down as well. I’m not sure if you are a religious person at all, but the book “Jesus Calling” REALLY helped my thinking through all of this. It’s a daily devotional book of short little passages reminding you to stay positive and not to worry about life. It sounds so simple, but it really has helped tremendously. Other than that, I think time helps to heal the pain that we feel both physically and emotionally. I wish you all the best and thank you again for being so open to share your story!

          3. Hi Mandy,

            I say ditch the bra! I only wore the band around my breasts after surgery. Once my surgeon told me I could remove it, I didn’t really wear anything in its place. Hope that helps!

          4. I had my bilateral mastectomy on 3/29/22 and have expanders. I tired numerous sport bras and they just really hurt my chest. I only wear tank tops, no bra of any kind. I too am looking forward to my next surgery to get these saucers out of me. We are thinking July or august! And thank God I am cancer free!!! I figure the discomfort is a small price to pay.

          5. Hi Vicki,

            I hope your recovery is continuing to go well! Bras of any type were really uncomfortable for me after surgery as well. Like you, I just wore tank tops until my exchange surgery. I’m so happy to hear that your next surgery is coming up this summer! You will feel so much better!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *