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Things to Know About Breast Implants

Editorial Staff

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Image: American Society of Plastic Surgeons

A breast implant is a medical prosthesis that is placed inside the breast to augment, reconstruct, or create the physical form of the breast.

There are three main types of breast implants:

  • Saline implants are filled with a sterile saline solution, like saltwater. The solution is held within an elastomer silicone shell.
  • Silicone gel-filled implants consist of a silicone outer shell filled with a silicone gel.
  • Alternative composite implants may be filled with polypropylene string, soy oil, or some other material.

There are risks associated with all breast implants, including:

  • additional surgeries
  • breast implant associated-anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a cancer of the infection-fighting cells (lymphocytes) of the immune system
  • capsular contracture, which is scar tissue that squeezes the implant
  • breast pain
  • rupture (tears or holes in the shell) with deflation of saline and silicone gel-filled implants
  • silent (without symptoms) rupture of silicone gel-filled implants
  • infection

If you’re considering breast implants, here are three tips:

Recognize that breast implants are not considered lifetime devices. The longer people have them, the greater the chances are that they will develop complications, some of which will require more surgery. The life of breast implants varies by person and can’t be predicted. That means everyone with breast implants will face additional surgeries, but no one can tell them when. And while a few people may keep their original implants for 20 to 30 years, that is not the common experience.

Communicate with your surgeon. For Chicago breast implants, the Surgeons will evaluate the shape, size, surface texture, and placement of the implant and the incision site for each person. Ask the surgeon questions about his or her experience in performing breast implant surgery, the surgical procedure, and the ways the implant might affect your life.

Also, tell the surgeon about previous surgeries and your body’s response—for example, whether surgeries resulted in a larger than expected amount of scar tissue—and discuss your expectations. This discussion helps the surgeon make operative decisions that achieve the desired appearance, including decisions about incision location and size as well as implant size, material, and placement. Many people have additional operations to change implant size. To achieve the best results after the first procedure, careful planning and reasonable expectations are necessary.

Learn about long-term risks. The FDA has identified an association between breast implants and the development of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. People who have breast implants may have an increased risk of developing ALCL in the fluid or scar tissue surrounding the implant. Breast implants approved in the U.S. can be filled with either saline or with silicone gel. They come in different sizes and shapes and have either smooth or textured surfaces (shells). BIA-ALCL appears to develop more frequently in individuals with textured implants than in people with smooth-surfaced implants. Remember, like other lymphomas, ALCL is a cancer of the immune system and not of breast tissue.

Although some women with implants may have experienced health problems such as connective tissue diseases (such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis), trouble breastfeeding, or reproductive problems, current evidence does not support an association between breast implants and these conditions.

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