Are Breast Implants Safe?
Over 300,000 women yearly are getting breast implants in the United States. The vast majority of that number report that they are satisfied and comfortable with their implants. Still, that does not mean that the surgery comes without its risks.
Breast augmentation history goes back to the late 1800s where a German doctor by the name of Vincenz Czerny removed a breast tumor from a woman and replaced it with fatty tissue from the lower back. In the tears to come, surgeons would proceed to experiment with dubious implants such as glass balls, wool, sponges, and ox cartilage. It wasn’t until the year 1962 that silicone implants were made available to the public. Two years later, the first saline implants reached the market. These two types would prove to be the safest, most ideal versions in modern times. But exactly how safe are today’s breast implants?
Silicone Breast Implants
Silicone implants were a cause of concern in the 1980s when women started reporting symptoms related to immunological disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and lupus. The FDA restricted their use in 1992 but, following 14 years of thorough research, found no significant connection. Silicone implants are the preferred choice of many women today.
Compared to saline implants, silicone feels and looks more like a natural breast. Skin wrinkling or dimpling is less likely in silicone implants.
Saline Breast Implants
Saline implants consist of a silicone outer shell and a saltwater solution inside. They typically produce less scarring because the implant is filled after insertion of the outer shell. Though saline implants appear less natural than silicone ones, they have a lower risk for serious adverse effects and are approved for use in women 18 years old and older. In comparison, silicone implants may be used starting from the age of 22.
Risks and Complications
Both implants may rupture due to circumstances such as natural deterioration of the material, falls and physical force, or faulty surgical procedures. Ruptures are more readily detected in saline implants. The breast will change shape and become smaller over time as the saline liquid is absorbed by the surrounding cells. The saline solution is eliminated from the body without further issues.
Silicone implants, on the other hand, make detection of ruptures trickier. If you decide to get silicone implants, you may be encouraged to get an MRI after 3-5 years of the initial procedure, then after 2-3 years to check for any issues. The MRI may sometimes cost more than the actual surgery and is not typically covered by insurance. Ruptures in silicone implants cause the material to leak into the space between the breast tissues, sometimes reaching the lymph nodes. Though it may cause breast pain and tenderness, a rupture is not proven to cause harm to the surrounding tissues. Still, surgeons recommend removing it and replacing the affected implant as soon as possible.
Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma is a rare condition that may result from having breast augmenting implants. It is highly treatable, particularly when detected earlier on, and does not lead to breast cancer. It is a type of cancer involving the immune system rather than the breast tissue. As of August 2020, only 733 confirmed cases of BIA-ALCL have been recorded worldwide.
Many women are able to breastfeed their children without any complications after undergoing breast augmentation. However, some are unable to do so. Those who underwent mastectomies will understandably not be able to breastfeed since there is a significant amount of breast tissue and mammary glands lost in the surgery.
Studies show that silicon levels in breast milk were not increased in women who have had silicone breast implants. Silicon is a component of the material silicone gel. However, it has not yet been fully established if silicone can or cannot be passed on through breast milk.
The recorded and established risks of having breast augmentation are not typically serious enough to scare off potential patients. Breast reconstruction following surgeries such as mastectomy may help women to regain their self-esteem. Though some may argue that the benefits are purely aesthetic, the benefits of self-confidence and the feeling of wholeness cannot be undermined. For some women, enhancing their outer appearance may lead to better job opportunities and social connections. Thus, women may improve their socioeconomic status by making a small boost in their physique.
For those who suffer from other diseases, such as cancer, the tiniest positive change in their appearance may give them the self-assurance they need to continue their personal fight.
If you are considering making a change to your breast shape and size, it’s a good idea to speak to a licensed surgeon before your final decision. An experienced cosmetic surgeon will help you choose the right type of implant and advise you on the best course of action fit for your needs.