DIY breast re­con­struc­tion: De­vice lets women do part at home Con­trol, com­fort­able and con­ve­nient

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCI­ENCE -

NEW YORK: This might be the ultimate do-ity­our­self project: Doc­tors are test­ing a de­vice that would let women do part of their own breast re­con­struc­tion at home. It’s aimed at not only mak­ing treat­ment more com­fort­able and con­ve­nient, but also giv­ing women a sense of con­trol - some­thing can­cer of­ten takes away.

More than 100,000 women each year in the United States have surgery to re­move a can­cer­ous breast, and many of them choose re­con­struc­tion with an im­plant. To make room for a per­ma­nent one, many of them get a tis­sue ex­pander, a tem­po­rary pouch that is grad­u­ally en­larged with saline to stretch the re­main­ing skin and mus­cle. This means trips to the doc­tor ev­ery week or two for sev­eral months for in­jec­tions of saline into the pouch, which can be a painful or­deal. “We would put as much saline as we could un­til ba­si­cally the pa­tient would say, ‘I can’t stand it any­more,’” said Dr. Daniel Ja­cobs, a Kaiser Per­ma­nente plas­tic sur­geon in San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia.

While bik­ing home one day, Ja­cobs had an idea: Why couldn’t a tiny can of com­pressed gas, like the one he car­ries to fix a flat tire, be used to let women in­flate their own tis­sue ex­panders, a lit­tle each day so there is less stretch­ing at a time and less pain? He helped found a com­pany AirX­pan­ders Inc. of Palo Alto, Cal­i­for­nia - to de­velop the de­vice, called AeroForm. It’s sold in Aus­tralia, ap­proved in Europe and un­der re­view by the US Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion.


Its use re­quires no spe­cial train­ing, wires or tubes - just a palm-sized re­mote con­trol that ac­ti­vates a tiny car­tridge in­side the pouch to pump gas, up to three times a day ac­cord­ing to how the woman feels.

In a com­pany-spon­sored study of 150 women, AeroForm pa­tients fin­ished tis­sue ex­pan­sion in half the time and were able to get im­plants a month sooner than others who had the usual saline treat­ments, said the study leader, Dr. Jef­frey Ascher­man, a plas­tic sur­geon at Columbia Univer­sity Pres­by­te­rian Med­i­cal Cen­ter in New York. “My pa­tients love it,” he said. When some women who agreed to be in the study learned they had been as­signed to get the saline de­vice for com­par­i­son, “I had one who started cry­ing, and other women said, ‘please Dr. Ascher­man, can’t you change it?’” he said.

There was no dif­fer­ence in rates of side­ef­fects such as in­fec­tions, but seven of the air ex­panders mal­func­tioned ver­sus only one saline one, Ascher­man said. The de­vice was tweaked to fix the prob­lem, he said. “It’s a re­ally in­ter­est­ing con­cept,” said one out­side ex­pert, Dr. Deanna At­tai, a Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Los An­ge­les sur­geon who is a past pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Breast Sur­geons.

“Giv­ing the pa­tient a sense of con­trol is very psy­cho­log­i­cally im­por­tant,” be­cause many women feel robbed of that, At­tai said. “To a pa­tient that’s go­ing through can­cer treat­ment that could be a big deal.”

Dr. Su­san E. Downey, a Los An­ge­les plas­tic sur­geon who used the AeroForm on two pa­tients in the study, said: “I think it will make life eas­ier for a lot of peo­ple.”

It did for 35-year-old Luin­cys Fer­nan­dez, a high school chem­istry teacher who lives in Bogota, New Jer­sey, and teaches in New York. She was di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer a year ago, when preg­nant with her sec­ond son, and used the AeroForm as part of the study. “I re­ally, re­ally liked it,” she said. She car­ried the re­mote con­trol in her purse and com­pleted the tis­sue ex­pan­sion in just 18 days. “It did not in­ter­rupt any of my daily ac­tiv­i­ties. I could go back to nor­mal. I could see the re­sults right away and I could see where I wanted it to go” in terms of size and ap­pear­ance, she said.

— AP

NEW YORK: In this Thurs­day, Oct. 20, 2016, photo, Dr. Jef­frey Ascher­man, chief of the Divi­sion of Plas­tic Surgery and pro­fes­sor of surgery at NewYork-Pres­by­te­rian/Columbia Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter, holds an AeroForm kit dur­ing an in­ter­view.

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