During the week of Thanksgiving, Samantha Blanco did not feel right; something was amiss. So she decided to go to the doctor.
"When I went to have the mammogram, I already knew that I had breast cancer," Blanco said. "I just knew."
She was right.
Last week, Blanco had a double mastectomy and is now recovering. She's already looking forward to what's next: reconstructive surgery with breast implants.
But Blanco is using a new device developed by Palo Alto-based AirXpanders. It's called the Aeroform tissue expander system.
"It just seemed so much more convenient and comfortable," Blanco said.
Before an implant is inserted, the tissue around the breast has to be inflated. Patients typically take a series of painful saline injections to achieve the inflation. And completed saline expansion usually takes about 4-6 months.
Contrastly, the AeroForm expander uses a gradual, patient-controlled release of compressed gas. And complete expansion takes about 21 days, according to the AirXpanders website.
Used once or twice a day, the device comes with a remote of sorts that a patient uses to communicate with the expander, inflating the tissue at their own pace and in the comfort of their own home, the company says.
The Food and Drug Administration just cleared the product, so doctors around the country can start using it. For now, the AeroForm is inserted only at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose by plastic surgeon Dr. Kamakshi Zeidler.
"This is really a first of its kind device," she said. "This technology is really special. There isn't any advance within breast reconstruction from a technological perspective that even comes close."
Cindy Shanker, of Los Gatos, is one of the patients who completed the clinical trial for the AeroForm.
"It helped me to feel like I had some role in my own recovery," Shanker said.
New patients hope they'll have similar experiences with the technology.
"I can have a more normal life after breast cancer and feel good about myself," Blanco said.