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If you are a part of or involved in the breast cancer community, you’ve likely been hearing more and more about explant surgery. The surgery, which involves removing existing implants, is becoming increasingly common across the country for a number of reasons. Some opt for the surgery as a personal preference, while for others, it is a medical necessity due to pain, discomfort, or illness caused by the artificial implants.
Even though explant surgery reverses what you’ve already had done, it can still be scary to go under the knife. Hearing from someone who has “been there, done that” can help ease fears, which is why we spoke with Eden Carter about her explant experience. Here’s what she shared with The Brobe, including the video diary below.
For Eden, the decision to undergo an explant surgery was prompted by discomfort caused by the implants.
“So I actually had a reconstruction of my reconstruction in 2014 and had new implants put in,” she explains. “They started to shift and pull on my nerves. I couldn’t sleep, and they were uncomfortable. It was mostly my left side the first time around. But now it’s both sides.”
And Eden isn’t alone in this— many women find that their implants end up causing discomfort and other negative side effects. Medical professionals often categorize the wide range of symptoms that women may experience after reconstruction and/or augmentation as breast implant illness. Breast implant illness can occur with any type of implant and include side effects such as:
For many women, removing breast implants alleviates all of their symptoms. As of now, not a whole lot is known about breast implant illness or its exact causes. Recently, organizations such as the FDA have announced plans to devote more towards research on the matter.
After the surgery, all of the emotions were still there for Eden. “I had every mixed emotion you can possibly think of,” she says. No words can express it, but I literally had every single emotion: happy, sad, angry, pissed, liberated, discouraged. Like, every emotion I could think of— it was so crazy.
For women thinking about undergoing explant surgery, Eden offered this advice. “I would say research as much as you can, every thought that you have, because I didn’t get the chance to do that in the beginning. I didn’t even know that this was an option—to actually go flat.”
Everybody has their own journey, and I think that there’s no right or wrong—no matter what you choose to do,” she reminds us.
Everyone’s explant recovery timeline can vary depending on a number of factors. Your doctor will be able to tell you more about what your exact recovery will look like, but in general, most women are able to return back to light-duty work a week or two after surgery. For those who work in more physically demanding environments, you may need to wait longer before returning to work.
Recovery may look very similar to when you first had reconstruction surgery. There will be soreness and tenderness around your incision for several weeks. You will likely have drains that must be worn post-op and may be given a surgical bra to wear. Your range of motion will be limited for a while, and you will be advised not to lift your arms or pick up anything heavy.
One of the most important things that you can do before your surgery is to simply take time to prepare. Your doctor will help you anticipate and prepare physically for what’s to come. As for emotional and mental support, don’t be afraid to reach back out to your support system who helped you the first go around. Deciding to get explant surgery is a big decision, and as Eden explained, there’s a lot of emotions involved.
Before surgery, it’s also a good idea to get everything you’ll need to help you have a smooth recovery. This includes making sure you have the right clothes and post-op garments and gadgets to help you in your healing.
“The [robe] material is amazing because I actually can’t lift or move my arms very well,” she explains. “So, when I’m getting this robe on and off, it’s hard for me to pull my arms out. You can actually stretch the robe out far and get your arm in nicely.”
Similarly, the drain belt has really come in handy. Before she got the belt, she would have someone hold her drains outside of the shower. Then, she’d have to pin the drains to her shirt once she got dressed. If the drain got hung up on anything, it would pull at the drain line, causing excruciating pain.
“I’m going to use [the drain belt] for daily use,” Eden says. “It saves me a lot of pain, and it saves me a lot of hard work.”
Explant surgery isn’t an easy decision nor an easy process. However, rest assured knowing that there are thousands of women out there, like Eden, who are grateful for their decision to have their breast implants removed.