With nearly 250,000 new cases of breast cancer each year, the demand for reconstruction surgery is high and now a new technology is making that uncomfortable process easier. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
Luincys Fernandez was diagnosed with breast cancer just weeks after giving birth to her second child.
Doctors removed a lump in her right breast then discovered the cancer had spread. They said her breast had to be removed.
"Immediately your brain shifts into survival mode. Whatever it is I have to do must be done to make sure I'm here for my boys," she says.
Fernandez says she wasn't looking forward to the prolonged reconstruction process. Every few weeks patients go in to have their surgeon fill a balloon implanted under the skin with saline until it reaches the desired size.
"I knew that the muscle would be stretching. It's like when you're exercising after a year that you haven't, you're sore," says Fernandez.
She was relieved when she heard she could participate in the trial of a new device.
"The AirXpander is a whole new way of doing this. The woman goes home with a little hand held dose controller that she can fill herself at home, or at work or wherever she wants," explains Dr. Jeffrey Ascherman, Site Chief, Division of Plastic Surgery at NY Presbyterian/Columbia.
The AeroForm balloon by AirXpander is implanted under the muscle after the breast is removed. It contains a cartridge of CO2 that expands the balloon in small increments - no more than three times a day - slowly stretching the skin and muscle to create space for an implant.
"It's a very important development in tissue expansion that's been around 30 or 40 years. This is the first major change in the way tissue expansion is done. It's very exciting," adds Dr. Ascherman.
And it cuts the time in half between mastectomy and placement of the final implant.
"It really speeds up the process, which is very helpful to women so they can just put this behind them," says Ascherman.
And after all that breast cancer patients go through the device helps to give them more control over their recovery process.
"It gives you that autonomy. Like you know what, I decide when I want to expand," says Fernandez.
The AeroForm is used in Australia. The manufacturer expects U.S. approval by the end of this year.