'Gummy bear' implants reshape breast reconstruction

In her late 30s now, Selma Farley says she had considered cosmetic breast implants for years before her recent surgery, but had shied away for several reasons, including cosmetic.

"I didn't want it to look like I had an implant," she says. "That's why I had never done it before. I had many girlfriends that had it done, and I didn't like the shape, round on the upper part."

Melanie Purcell received her implants as part of breast reconstruction after undergoing a double mastectomy to protect against breast cancer.

"I feel wonderful," she says. "It's a decision I'm so glad that I made and I would never second guess it."

While their motivations were different, both women opted for a recently approved type of breast implant often referred to by the nickname "gummy bears."

"So a 'gummy bear' implant basically describes a shaped implant that has a highly cohesive silicone gel filling," says Dr. Kamakshi Zeidler. "So, much like gummy bears, where if you squish them, they hold their shape."

Zeidler is a plastic surgeon in Campbell, and an investigator in the clinical trials for one of the two brands now on the market. She says the 'gummy bear' implants are constructed with a denser, semi-solid type of silicone, which is typically firmer than more liquid implants.

"These implants have a tear drop shape, and more, they're a little bit better, actually, at mimicking the shape of the breast," she says.

In Purcell's reconstruction, Zeidler used a technique called fat grafting to smooth the appearance of the implants even further. Coupled with a nipple-sparing mastectomy, Purcell believes the result returned her to her pre-cancer surgery form.

"I would be able to wear a bikini, I could wear clothes and no one would even know that I had the surgery," she says.

While research is on-going, investigators are also looking at potential safety advantages. They're trying to determine whether the semi-solid core, which was cut in half in this demonstration sample, might be more resistant to damage after implant.

"Our thinking as plastic surgeons is a very cohesive silicone implant has the potential to be more safe because when that implant ruptures, this is a silicone gel that sticks to itself," Zeidler says.

She says the main consideration for many women is still cosmetic. Often the difference between a subtler result versus a rounder fuller look. For Selma, who wanted a natural looking improvement, less was ultimately more.

"I am thinking to go to Brazil next month, so that'll be exciting to go in a bikini," she says. "But it's more for, you know, an everyday look."

Written and produced by Tim Didion

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