Device makes breast reconstruction less painful

Breast cancer survivors can use remote control at home

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 Each year about 100 thousand women with breast cancer will undergo a mastectomy. For those who elect reconstructive surgery, it can be a long, painful process. Now a remote control is changing that.

When Michele Stapleton found out she had breast cancer, the busy manicurist wasn't too worried at first.

"And so I said, 'oh I'll have a lumpectomy no big deal' and they said no, the tumor was too large and that I'd have to have a mastectomy," said Michele Stapleton.

As a precaution the mother of two had both breasts removed. Her next step, reconstruction.  Dr. Ankit Desai from the East Coast Institute For Research says the process can often be long and painful. There's usually not enough skin to insert an implant after a mastectomy, so doctors have to stretch the patient's tissue with an expander and inject saline into it.

"They have to have a needle that's stuck through the skin. Sometimes that can cause some discomfort for patients," explained Desai.

As part of study, Stapleton is trying out a new tissue expander using a remote control. It allows patients to expand their breast tissue at their own pace in the comfort of their own home.

"I don't like needles. I don't like pain and if I can control what I do as far as how I expand, it was exciting to me," Stapleton said.

The remote control is placed against the expander and instead of saline injections carbon dioxide is released.

"And you press the button one time and that's it. It's delivered a dose," Desai said.

Patients go from weekly visits and injections for several months, to only having to come in twice and can be ready for breast implants in just weeks.

"You have control over it. That's the glory of it," said Desai.

Giving people like Stapleton more time for what matters.

The study is actively recruiting all over the country for mastectomy patients planning to undergo breast reconstruction. For more information on the trial go to or call 408-559-7192.

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