Having gone through fat grafting after breast reconstruction now two times three years apart, I want to share my insight to help others navigate the experience. There are some things I have learned that will help you navigate the experience of fat grafting recovery with more ease. Let's jump into how to prepare and what to expect with recovery.
What Is Fat Grafting After Breast Cancer
In a prior post I go more into depth on the fat grafting process but essentially fat grafting uses liposuction to remove fat from certain parts of your body (usually stubborn fat areas), and then re-inject it into other areas after it's gone through a cleansing process. In the case of those that have gone through breast cancer and reconstruction, many times the reconstructed breasts do not look as natural as desired due to a lack of breast tissue. By injecting fat into the breast area, doctors are able to give patients a more natural appearance.
What to Expect After Fat Grafting
When preparing for your fat grafting experience, there are a few things to keep in mind and items to purchase to make your experience and recovery smoother.
Be Prepared for Intense Pain.
Having gone through all the breast cancer surgeries, the liposuction pain as part of the fat grafting process was the most painful of them all. The liposuction process causes a lot of internal cell damage resulting in bruising and intense pain for 2-3 days. The intense pain usually subsides after 2-3 days (much faster than mastectomy recovery), but you should be prepared to be sore and tender for a good 4-6 weeks following the fat grafting process. Mentally it helped me to know the pain was temporary and it's SO important to stay on top of your pain management with your prescribed medication.
Fat Grafting Bruising & Swelling
Everyone's level of bruising and swelling will be unique. My experience with bruising and swelling after fat grafting was even different between my two sessions. Last time I had more bruising, less swelling and this time it was the alternate. These are some of the things that helped me. Consult your doctor before taking any supplements.
- Use arnica gel on your bruising
- Take arnica tablets prior to the procedure
- Keep the compression on to help with swelling
- Stay hydrated to help with swelling
Fat Grafting Recovery List
Compression Garments & Clothing
After your fat grafting procedure you will have to wear compression garments on the areas where you have had fat removed. In my case, the fat was removed in the abdomen and the sides (first time only). During my first session, my surgeon had me wear compression for 6 weeks and this time I only had to wear it for 1-2 weeks. Your surgeon will provide you will guidance.
For the first few days I recommend the Marena compression garments. They are professional grade and recommended by both my surgeons. The more the compression, the better it feels when you move as well during those first few days of pain
When you transition out of 24/7 compression, I like these lightweight compression shorts. You can also use bike shorts, spanx or other compressions items. Your hospital will also send you home with a binder, but they are usually bulky and not easily worn with clothes as you transition through your fat grafting recovery.
In terms of recovery clothing, I suggest loser sweatpants, comfy tops and/or easy dresses you can slip off and on. You won't want anything tight on the area where you had the fat removed. In about a week I was back to my normal clothing and wore the high waisted compression shorts underneath.
If you need compression (usually when you have more reconstruction or cancer procedures combined with fat grafting), I suggest this bra from AnaOno. I wore it nonstop during my recovery and it's great that is hooks in the front and provides that support and light compression. If you want the fabric version over the mesh one I am wearing below, try this style.
For the rest of my recovery, I alternated my favorite True & Co bras and other AnaOno bras because they are super soft and comfortable. Keep in mind you will likely have swelling and you'll want a bra that has some stretch.
You can always use 'CANCERCHIC' for 15% OFF on your Ana Ono purchase OR route your bra purchase through insurance for reimbursement. 11/14/22-11/28/22 Use code VIP4EVER for 35% OFF all items.
Fat Grafting Recovery Restrictions
After your fat grafting procedure you will likely have restrictions for a few weeks. The fat grafting itself only requires about a week of restrictions but if your fat grafting is combines with other procedures such as breast reconstruction revision or implant pocket changes, you may have longer restrictions. In my case I was not able to lift over 5lbs for a week and I have exercise restrictions for 6 weeks. At 4 weeks, my pain is almost gone and I was able to get back to normally routines a few days after surgery with the help of pain medication. By one week I was off the pain meds and fully functioning despite the tenderness.
My Fat Grafting Recovery & Results
While everyone's fat grafting results will be different, it's so helpful to have photos to refer to when prepare for the procedure. For reference, I had a double mastectomy and implant reconstruction prior. Three year's prior I had my first round of fat grafting and I would say about 50-60% of the fat "took" which is average. The rest was reabsorbed into the body. There is a risk of fat necrosis, which everyone should be aware of. I was lucky not to experience that.
Fat grafting Scars
When it comes to scaring you will have 2-4 incision points for the liposuction and injection. Mine are by my pelvic bone and my breasts. In the past session my scars healed great with vitamin E oil. Since I have a larger scar this time from my revisions aspect of the procedure, my surgeon recommended this tape made from silicone sheeting that is supposed to help the scar heal more smoothly.
I am so thrilled with the results and hope they stay this way for many months to go. Have more questions or want to connect, follow me on Instagram where I am most active.
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Breast cancer survivor, lover of style, beauty and all things pink! Inspiring you to thrive through adversity.