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Topic: Sleeping with tissue expanders

Forum: Breast Reconstruction — Is it right for you? Discuss timing and various procedures and techniques.

Posted on: Apr 6, 2010 05:17AM

iHEARTu wrote:

Curious if anyone has been able to sleep on their sides? I've tried but now I'm so sore.

Thanks
-catherine

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Apr 6, 2010 06:14AM lvtwoqlt wrote:

Most of the time with my expanders I did sleep on my back with plenty of pillows, although close to the time of my exchange I did manage to sleep on my side.

Sheila

Women are like tea bags, we don't know how strong we are until we were thrown into hot water. Eleanore Roosevelt Diagnosed ADH Feb 2005, ADH Sept 2006

Dx 4/27/2007, DCIS, Stage 0, Grade 1, 0/7 nodesSurgery 02/12/2005 Lumpectomy (Left)Surgery 09/10/2006 Lumpectomy (Right)Hormonal Therapy 10/12/2006 TamoxifenSurgery 06/01/2007 Mastectomy (Both)
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Apr 6, 2010 08:53AM Sassa wrote:

I am a side sleeper.

Once the pain from the TE surgery totally disappeared, I slept comfortably on both sides (bilateral reconstruction) throughout the expansion process. 

It took about one week for the discomfort to disappear even when I had pressure on the side from lying on it.  My left side was pain free first (simple mastectomy).  The right side took several days longer (modified radical mastectomy with SNB).

Mine was a delayed reconstruction, 2 1/2/years after the mastectomies.  It took me much longer to be able to sleep comfortably on my right side after the mastectomy, around 6 months as I recall.  It was about three months for the left side (mastectomies were two separate surgeries).

I see your mastectomies were fairly recent so I assume you had immediate reconstruction done.  Most of your pain might, therefore, be from the mastectomies and not the TE placement.

Dx 11/6/2006, IDC, 1cm, Stage I, Grade 3, 0/9 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2+
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Apr 6, 2010 09:15AM Jayne_in_UK wrote:

I was always a side/front sleeper, but I propped myself up with pillows and slept on my back or right side for several weeks after my single mastectomy in May 2009. After that I found that I was able to lie on my left side again, for a short time to start with. Now I can sleep pretty much the same way I did before mastectomy and don't have to even think about it.

I had my TE placed at the time of my mastectomy, so it has been there 11 months now and my body has got used to it. Your surgery is still pretty recent so you probably just need to give your body more time. I hope it gets easier for you.

Recurrence: Jan 2012

Dx 4/9/2009, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIIa, Grade 2, 4/13 nodes, ER+, HER2-
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Apr 6, 2010 10:10AM pambond76 wrote:

OMG!! I had my TE placed four weeks ago and I still have a VERY hard time sleeping. Last night was the FIRST time I laid in bed. My husband had brought my favorite recliner into the bedroom for me to sleep more upright. BLESSING!!

I had a left masectomy with immed. recon.

IDC 2+ cm grade 1 stage 1

Good luck 

Dx 2/16/2010, IDC, 2cm, Stage I, Grade 1, 0/1 nodes, ER+
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Apr 6, 2010 10:39AM iHEARTu wrote:

pam-

I slept in my recliner for 5 weeks, then the guest bedroom (the bed is't as high), then I think it was after 6 week I finally slept in our bed. Also, I took naps in the bed to see how it felt before I thought i could do an overnight. Good luck to you.

DCIS 10cm+ / grade 3 / bi-lat mx 1.5.2010

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Apr 6, 2010 10:41AM iHEARTu wrote:

My sternum is still soooo sore. I've been taking advil to help to help.

DCIS 10cm+ / grade 3 / bi-lat mx 1.5.2010

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Apr 6, 2010 10:49AM kelgrover wrote:

I actually tried a muscle relaxer once and I found that it helped.  If you aren't against trying that, maybe you could get a perscription.  I also find that spooning a pillow helps me.  I promise you they get more comfortable!!!  I've had mine in for six months now and I really haven't been uncomfortable in a long time. 

Dx 9/30/2009, 2cm, Stage IIa, Grade 3, 0/4 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2+
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Apr 6, 2010 07:18PM GG27 wrote:

I sleep on both sides, I'm 2 months out from surgery.  Bi-lat, lat flaps, I was only sore for about 2 weeks & now don't even think about it.  But.... I was a tummy sleeper also, which I think is gone forever.

Dee

Bilateral breast cancer, IDC, 3 1/2 cm, Stage 2 Grade 2, 4/12 nodes, ER+/PR+,

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Apr 6, 2010 08:01PM iHEARTu wrote:

kelgrover- had some muscle relaxors left from my surgery and used one of those and it did help. I guess I'm fine when I go to bed, but it's when i wake up is where I have the most discomfort.

DCIS 10cm+ / grade 3 / bi-lat mx 1.5.2010

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Apr 6, 2010 09:21PM winter1NY wrote:

hi iHEARTu

I find TE's to be very uncomfortable. (exchg Thurs yeah!) I had always slept on my stomach before so quite an adjustment. I don't mean to be negative as we are all different but I still cannot sleep on my side. I slept for months on family room sectional (at the corner point) I just put sheets over it  and it was sooo comfortable as it kept me from rolling sideways onto TE's by accident. Also you will see many reports on here that morning is the worst as they tend to stiffen up. I also found shower seemed to loosen them up but watch hot water!! what also helps is I usually wake up at 4-5a.m cause it hurts but started leaving advil on my nightstand and that helps to go back to sleep. (Other brands did not work for me) Best of luck to you.It DOES get better as time goes on

Also as others suggested I had muscle relaxant (flexeril) in the beginning which really helped

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Apr 7, 2010 07:08AM tamgam wrote:

kfrog- i had the lat flap after bmx 11 days ago.  The TE are tough to deal with but the back is super sore and the muscles seem to "roll" around and I get so skeeved out by that.  Does it go away eventually?  I realize i still have drains and it has not been very long since surgery but to me it feels like forever!

T.

Dx 1/25/2010, DCIS, 1cm, Stage I, Grade 2, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR+
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Apr 7, 2010 02:42PM GG27 wrote:

T, Until I had my last 2 drains out (18 days) it was still uncomfortable, but I could eventually find a good position & sleep for a few hours.  I don't think the pain from moving certain ways completely went until about a month in.  Things like reaching around to turn off a light, putting on a jacket, pulling on shoes etc.

But all of a sudden I realized I wasn't in pain any more & even the iron bra feeling of the expanders has many gone.  I know that it's not like this for everyone though.  My expanders has settled in now, they don't feel like foriegn objects in my chest & hopefully this will happen for you too.  

Bilateral breast cancer, IDC, 3 1/2 cm, Stage 2 Grade 2, 4/12 nodes, ER+/PR+,

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Apr 7, 2010 02:49PM janincanada wrote:

I sleep on my sides and on my back.  When I sleep on my side I usually place a pillow in front of my chest and stomach to elevate my arm (lymphodema risk).  I found that the pillow made me more comfortable with the expanders.  I was able to sleep on either side (I had a prophylactic mast and TE on the left and LD on the right with TE) within a few days of a fill.  Now that I'm filled and ready to burst: just waiting for my exchange sleep position isn't an issue.  When I roll over to my side it might be uncomfortable at first so I just make sure I am truly on my side and not rolling over onto my front.

Dx 3/26/2008, IDC, 3cm, Stage IIIa, Grade 3, 4/10 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2+
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Apr 7, 2010 07:56PM iHEARTu wrote:

janincanada - Gosh, I didn't know about the lymphodema risk by sleeping on the side? Good to know! I've tried the pillow, but for some reason, it doesn't work?! I have found out that if I cross my arms or have my arms upbove my head, the discomfort seems to get better.

-c

DCIS 10cm+ / grade 3 / bi-lat mx 1.5.2010

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Apr 8, 2010 11:40PM Kristinka wrote:

I recommend travel pillows for propping yourself up in the sleeping position that you desire.  I got two of them at Target, and they take up less space than full pillows.  I could NEVER sleep on my side with the TEs, but about 3-4 weeks after my exchange, I started sleeping on my sides, propped with pillows.  Just know that it does get easier with time!

Dx 5/13/2009, DCIS, 3cm, Stage 0, Grade 1, 0/1 nodes, ER+
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Apr 8, 2010 11:51PM pupfoster1 wrote:

Hi Catherine,

My hardest time getting comfortable was just after mastectomy surgery when I could only sleep on my back.  I ended up on the couch in my family room for at least a couple weeks after surgery.  It hurt too bad to try and lay on my sides.  But I am here to tell you it DOES get better.  TIme will heal you, and you will eventually be able to sleep on both sides,

Good luck hon,

Sharon

Sharon

Dx 9/17/2009, IDC, 6cm+, Stage IIIc, Grade 2, 13/15 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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May 19, 2013 06:31AM Doreen12 wrote:

Hi Sharon,
I had a double Mastectomy on April 23, with tissue expanders placed in me. It is almost 4 weeks, I am so uncomfortable with the tissue expanders, I tried over and over again to sleep in bed with several amounts of pillows in all different ways its so painful I feel like the expanders are moving around and I cannot get comfortable and end up back on the couch on my recliner praying I can fall asleep because my back and rear hurt so bad sleeping like this every night. You had mentioned it does get better in time , question .How long does it take? I find myself always crying and praying for the pain and discomfort to end and it doesn't. I have mentioned this to my surgeon and he says its normal. I still haven't begun to fill , I am a bit nervous I feel like my skin won't be able to stretch I feel very tight . Will this get more comfortable. I am ready to take them out and start all over and friends and family tell me to be patient , I don't know what to do, the pain from the expanders are terrible. Doreen

Dx 3/5/2013, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIa, 1/10 nodes, HER2-Dx 3/5/2013, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIa, 1/13 nodesSurgery 04/23/2013 Mastectomy (Both); Lymph Node Removal (Both); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement (Both)
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May 19, 2013 12:39PM niki1202 wrote:

I just started sleeping on my side recently. I too feel more comfortable with elevating my arms though my right arm ( where they removed lymph nodes) doesn't always get elevated. I should start, since I didn't know this would help with lymphodema.

Doreen, I know it's very hard right now, and sometimes you just want to throw in the towel. Hang in there. This is only temporary, and it WILL get better. What I find to be very helpful is the prescribed stretches they give you after surgery. Make sure you do those 5x a day. It stretches the muscles and eases discomfort big time. Your skin will be able to stretch. Our bodies are capable of amazing things. Stay strong and if you need to, keep reaching out here for support. Hugs

Dx 4/4/2013, IDC, 1cm, Stage I, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-Surgery 05/01/2013 Mastectomy (Right); Prophylactic Mastectomy (Left); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement (Both)Surgery 07/22/2013 Reconstruction: Breast implants (permanent) (Both)Hormonal Therapy 07/24/2013 Tamoxifen
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May 20, 2013 02:31AM Doreen12 wrote:

Hi Niki1202,
Thank you for your reply, I am trying so hard although my plastic surgeon does not want me to see a physical therapist until another week he feels I'm not fully healed due to surgery. He did in-fact mention to me the pain in my left arm and shoulder blade and shoulder might subside a bit once I begin therapy because I still cannot move. I recently began the crawling up the wall on my own but I'm so limited I can only get into my first shelf in the kitchen. It's so hard when your used to being so active all day. But I'm thinking positive and I do feel like somehow someway there's a light at the end of the tunnel.
But didn't you just recently get your surgery 5-1-13? And your sleeping on your side with expanders? How are you able to I get severe pain and my expanders move so I try for a mixture and give up and cry. But if you can all the power to you God bless and keep up the great work.thats fantastic.........Maybe one day I can but I definitely do not see it anytime soon. Doreen

Dx 3/5/2013, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIa, 1/10 nodes, HER2-Dx 3/5/2013, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIa, 1/13 nodesSurgery 04/23/2013 Mastectomy (Both); Lymph Node Removal (Both); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement (Both)
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May 20, 2013 05:00AM Dulcigirl wrote:

I am a life long dedicated side sleeper!!!! Lol.
After my BMX I had to sleep sitting up in a recliner for 4 months due to sternum pain, etc.

BUT a couple of weeks after my exchange in February I was able to start side sleeping again.
Aaaaaaaahhhh.....NOTHING beats curling up in fetal position. ;-)
(Ok. Having the cancer gone? TOTALLY beats that, but you know what I mean.)
Hang in there. I hated it, but I would do it again if I had to.

"I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day, and I believe in miracles." ~ Audrey Hepburn

Dx 9/12/2012, IDC, Stage ISurgery 10/16/2012 Mastectomy (Both); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement (Both)Surgery 02/14/2013 Reconstruction: Breast implants (permanent) (Both)Surgery 10/22/2013 Reconstruction: Breast implants (permanent) (Both)
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May 20, 2013 06:34AM DocBabs wrote:

I slept on my sides immediately when I got home. I used a lot of pillows positioned around my breast and expanders and bracing my back. I absolutely cannot sleep for any length of time on my back. Maybe that's also why I never slept in a recliner. My back feels so much better when I can stretch it out .

DocBabs

Dx 4/28/2011, IDC, Stage Ia, Grade 1, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-Surgery 05/13/2011 Mastectomy (Left); Lymph Node Removal (Right); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement, Breast implants (permanent) (Both)Hormonal Therapy 07/15/2011 Aromasin
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May 20, 2013 09:51AM niki1202 wrote:

Doreen,

They had me do certain exercises the day after surgery. Minor movements like shoulder circles, arm circles, elbow raises, etc. then after the drains came out I was doing the wall crawls. Yes, I had my surgery may 1st. I was getting bad headaches from sleeping semi inclined, so I had to give the side sleeping a shot. Sometimes it's uncomfortable, so I take ibuprofen or the stronger pain killer they prescribed. I truly believe the stretches help me with the pain. Speak to your PS about some stretches. Most of them want you to move to help you heal and minimize scar tissue. So sorry that you're in so much discomfort. Hang in there!!

Dx 4/4/2013, IDC, 1cm, Stage I, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-Surgery 05/01/2013 Mastectomy (Right); Prophylactic Mastectomy (Left); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement (Both)Surgery 07/22/2013 Reconstruction: Breast implants (permanent) (Both)Hormonal Therapy 07/24/2013 Tamoxifen
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May 21, 2013 03:03AM Doreen12 wrote:

Thank you Niki1212,
I am taking your advice and beginning tomorrow, my plastic surgeon did not give me any exercise as of yet because of the amount of pain I am in , he said my pain is extreme compared to other women , he said by now it should of subsided it is a bit better and I thank For for that. But anyway tomorrow I will begin to start your advice , thank you once again. And lots of luck to you also. I am writing at 3 am its terrible I cannot sleep anymore from this recliner. But I'll try in about a week for side sleeping my favorite position , your right. Thanks!

Doreen

Dx 3/5/2013, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIa, 1/10 nodes, HER2-Dx 3/5/2013, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIa, 1/13 nodesSurgery 04/23/2013 Mastectomy (Both); Lymph Node Removal (Both); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement (Both)
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May 21, 2013 03:18AM Doreen12 wrote:

To Duicigirl,
Question I read you had a double Mas in 10-16-12 and final surgery with the implants in when they operated with the final surgery 2-14-13 , was all the pressure totally gone like we have from these horrible expander? If so how long did it take to recover from the second surgery and how painfull was the exchange. I'm so nervous. I have {o} percent pain tolerance.
ALSO , I am beginning to fill slowly tomorrow 5-21-13 , how painful, is that and what about more pressure or is it easy to fill? I feel so tight , my skin is super tight , I have no room for filling, I'm so scared!
I'm so sorry for all the questions but I feel like I'm driving my surgeon crazy with a long question sheet and I want to tryin ease off on him he has been very patient with me and I know it's a longggg process and I do not want to drive him nuts....

Doreen

Dx 3/5/2013, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIa, 1/10 nodes, HER2-Dx 3/5/2013, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIa, 1/13 nodesSurgery 04/23/2013 Mastectomy (Both); Lymph Node Removal (Both); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement (Both)
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May 21, 2013 03:23AM Doreen12 wrote:

To DocBabs,

Pillows aren't the word, I laugh every morning when I get off the recliner I have around 8 of them wrapped all around me and still not enough... Lol
I can just keep praying that it will get better and think positive that this is temporary. The exchange better be comfortable, I pray every day for that. Hope your doing well. Thanks

Doreen

Dx 3/5/2013, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIa, 1/10 nodes, HER2-Dx 3/5/2013, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIa, 1/13 nodesSurgery 04/23/2013 Mastectomy (Both); Lymph Node Removal (Both); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement (Both)
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May 21, 2013 03:30AM Doreen12 wrote:

Question,

When and if I can ever begin to sleep in bed and off the recliner and back to sleeping on my sides my favorite, in what position do we keep our arms to prevent Lymphordema ? Sorry cannot seem to spell correctly tonight. I am very very concerned about contacting that, My neighbor has it and she said its torturous and very painful she has it for 30 years there's no cure for it.

Doreen

Dx 3/5/2013, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIa, 1/10 nodes, HER2-Dx 3/5/2013, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIa, 1/13 nodesSurgery 04/23/2013 Mastectomy (Both); Lymph Node Removal (Both); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement (Both)
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May 21, 2013 03:43AM, edited May 21, 2013 03:44AM by 2nd_time_around

Hi Ladies, hang in there, it does get better! I have spent a lot of time on my recliner as so many have. I found that a sheet on the recliner plus a heating pad on my back (only) helped. Was carrying a lot of stress in my shoulders and lower back so heating pad on low eased the pain. I too have 0 pain tolerance and am very squeamish. What I found that worked for fills, this will only work if you have someone else drive, especially for first fill: took a Xanax night before and morning of fill. Took Flexeril (muscle relaxer) before I left the house for appt. As soon I was directed to exam room, PS's nurse put a topical called Emla (numbing cream) on fill site, and waited 10-15 before fill. Honestly, felt almost nothing: very slight pinch, then slight pressure like a finger pressing down - not bad at all. And it goes quickly. First time I didn't want to look so I put the only thing I had at the time, a magazine, over my face so I couldn't see anything. Don't advise that, had newsprint on my face. Nurse not only kept me talking that couple of minutes, now can't believe she actually put saline bag in my hand and I squeezed it. Continued this routine till last one. I couldn't get someone to drive me so I decided to put on my big girls panties, no pills taken, only Emla applied and I got thru it with no problems (and I was overfilled at this point).

**AKA 2TA ** Any day I wake up, it's a good day. ~ ~ "You don't know strength until strength is the only choice you have." (Author unknown)..... Yes, this is my 2nd occurrence, not recurrence (different BC's), 1st in 1996, 2nd in 2012

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May 21, 2013 03:47AM, edited May 21, 2013 03:49AM by 2nd_time_around

Continuing... When I could, tried sleeping in a bed with a wooden chair's back against the bed to pull myself up. Absolutely needed lots of pillows to prop me up, felt most comfortable in a half sitting/reclining position. Many nights started in bed but ended up on the recliner or sofa. It will get better!

**AKA 2TA ** Any day I wake up, it's a good day. ~ ~ "You don't know strength until strength is the only choice you have." (Author unknown)..... Yes, this is my 2nd occurrence, not recurrence (different BC's), 1st in 1996, 2nd in 2012

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May 21, 2013 09:19AM Dulcigirl wrote:

Doreen,
Hang in there. For me the fills were generally uncomfortable for about a day. My advice would be to not let them add too much too quickly. I had 50-70 cc's every two weeks. Some bothered me, some actually felt BETTER!! Especially the early ones....i thought maybe the fill changed the position of the TE jst enough to get some pressure off different nerves.

Remember that each person has her own experience with all of this! For me the exchange provided SOME instant relief, but I had pain at the spots where my implants were anchored to my chest. That pain gradually lessened over about 5 weeks. I stayed sleeping in the recliner for about a week and a half after my exchanged. I am now on my side in bed just like I used to do before cancer. I do not know the answer to your arm position/lymphedema question.

Ask away!

"I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day, and I believe in miracles." ~ Audrey Hepburn

Dx 9/12/2012, IDC, Stage ISurgery 10/16/2012 Mastectomy (Both); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement (Both)Surgery 02/14/2013 Reconstruction: Breast implants (permanent) (Both)Surgery 10/22/2013 Reconstruction: Breast implants (permanent) (Both)
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May 26, 2013 05:28AM Doreen12 wrote:

To Duicigirl,

Thank you so much for replying, and yes the heating pad definitely helps , I do keep it on low on my recliner on my low to mid back. But the expanders are horrible. Now In have to wait until January to remove them due to upcoming light chemo treatments 2 times a month through IV, 15 minutes each. Not bad . And he said I wouldn't lose my hair, big concern for all of us women. Have a great holiday weekend. And lots of luck to you.

Doreen

Dx 3/5/2013, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIa, 1/10 nodes, HER2-Dx 3/5/2013, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIa, 1/13 nodesSurgery 04/23/2013 Mastectomy (Both); Lymph Node Removal (Both); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement (Both)

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