Adjustable breast implants give some cancer patients new confidence

CREATED Jan. 21, 2014 - UPDATED: Jan. 21, 2014

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MILWAUKEE - Julie Brown is grinning from ear to ear. Not just because she's a successful legal analyst, a real estate guru, and a proud mom of two. The 41-year-old is happy to be alive.

"I've been through a lot over the years," she admits.

Julie may only be in her early 40's, but she is a 2-time breast cancer survivor. Her first diagnosis came at the age of 29. She had the lumps removed and opted for saline implants to reconstruct both breasts. That was back in 2001.

"Surgery back then it was... I don't want to say barbaric but it kinda was. It was also a little more taboo I would say," Julie recalls.

Fast forward to her second diagnosis more than a decade later, and Julie is happy to talk about her adjustable implant. "I didn't feel the pressure, I didn't feel the pain, then they were slowly filled over six months so I could decide what size did I want? What shape did I want? How far did I want to go with it?"

Dr. Joseph Mazza in Fort Myers says the procedure has actually been around since the 70's, as an option for cosmetic purposes, and a way to help stretch the skin for mastectomy patients.

"Being able to adjust up or down I think is a wonderful thing. You can try different outfits, you can see how things look," Julie says.

The implant is filled with saline, and patients can keep coming in to adjust for about six months to a year before making a final decision on the implant size. Julie says playing an active role in deciding how her body will look is crucial.

"I think it's better to go in there and be a little bit smaller and enlarge yourself over time, than come out and feel like you've done something horribly wrong," she says matter-of-factly.

Dr. Mazza says the only downside to the adjustable implant would be that it requires a minor procedure to take out the port.