There are always risks with any surgery or procedure. But sometimes, risks might not be truly understood yet. For example, you may have heard of “Breast Implant Illness”, a term used for a cluster of symptoms including but not limited to fatigue, chest pain, hair loss, headaches, chills, chronic pain, depression, neurological issues, hormonal issues, anxiety, brain fog, etc, that are directly related to breast augmentation with smooth or textured breast implants of saline or silicone. The interesting thing about this illness though, is that it is not an official medical diagnosis.
Breast Implant Illness (BII)
Breast implant illness (BII) is a term that women who have been experiencing these symptoms after (and could be many years after) their breast augmentation. Using social media, these affected women have banned together to make their voice louder, encourage the FDA to do more long-term large scientific studies regarding breast implants and auto-immune type illnesses, and push the medical system to consider that women’s health problems could be correlated with their breast implants.
According to the America Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 400,000 women have breast augmentation surgeries every year. Most of these implants now are smooth silicone shells filled with sterile salt water (saline).
When we transplant organs like a lung, kidney, liver, etc, we place the patient on immunosuppressive/anti-rejection medication, so they do not reject their new organ. We have to do this even when the organs are from their brothers, sisters, etc. So is it so implausible to think that your body might reject an implant made from silicone like these women are claiming?
Implants: Cause for Concern
So let’s look first at the facts:
- The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center conducted a study reflecting the outcomes of almost 100,000 patients showing how silicone and saline implants are associated with some rare diseases, autoimmune disorders, and other conditions.2. One brand of silicone implants reported a 2-8 times higher frequency of Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, still-births and fertility issues, scleroderma and melanoma compared to the general population.1 The other type used for augmentation and reconstruction (silicone implants) had reported the diseases of scleroderma, Sjogren’s syndrome and dermatomyositis more than twice as often as the general public.
- Researchers have reported that the risks of certain autoimmune diseases increased significantly for women with implants; for example, there was an 800% increase in Sjogren’s syndrome, 700% increase in scleroderma, and 600% increase in arthritis among women with Mentor breast implants compared to the general population of women of the same age and demographics.5 Also, the FDA has reported that silicone can stimulate an immune response, so it is ignorant to disregard any possible connection between these silicone shell implants and autoimmune disorders.
- Explantation (removal of the breast implants) had improved silicone-related complaints (fatigue, muscle aches and pains, neurological issues, dry eyes/mouth, gastrointestinal issues) in 75% of patients;2 however this did not always reverse the autoimmune diseases that may have developed. One study did show that symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (an immunological disorder in which chronic inflammation affects your joints) improved in 97% of the 43 women studied after their breast implants were removed and not replaced, though. And in 96% of the 52 women who suffered from RA and did not have their implants removed, their symptoms actually worsened.6
- Certain implants have been linked to cancer. The FDA reported a clear link between breast implants and anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. Allergen had to recall their textured breast implants (silicone and saline) due to this unfortunate discovery.3 Another study found a 21% overall increased risk of cancer (specifically brain cancer, respiratory tract cancers, cervical cancer, and vulva cancer) for women with implants, compared with women of the same age in the general population.4
- Overall, the FDA has reported a statistically significant increase in fatigue, exhaustion, joints swelling, muscle cramping/aches, and joint pain after implantation.5
- Even though many women use breast augmentation to increase their self-esteem, relationships, and quality of life, numerous research studies have concluded that suicide rates are actually HIGHER for women with implants.7 Could there also be a link to depression?
So in conclusion, listen to your body and your intuition! Most women don’t have issues with their breast implants. Make sure you are actually having an adverse reaction to your implants before starting to think of taking them out, as explant surgery (removing the implants, surrounding scar tissue, and silicone residues) is quite an invasive procedure, and may be completely unnecessary! However, if all symptoms started after your surgery, well then- you may need to take the above facts into consideration. Talk to your doctor about the possible symptoms from your breast augmentation, as this could be one of the “root causes” for disease that us naturopaths are always talking about.
- Largest-Ever Study Shows Silicone Breast Implants Associated with Rare Diseases. MD Anderson Cancer Center. https://www.mdanderson.org/newsroom/largest-ever-study-shows-silicone-breast-implants-associated-with-rare-diseases.h00-159227301.html
- Is explantation of silicone breast implants useful in patients with complaints? Immunologic Research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5406477/
- Breast Implant Recall: What You Need to Know. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/breast-implant-recall-what-you-need-to-know.html?fbclid=IwAR2RV2icK-uNw4XKGRkVVRSpEso0K0rmEJxCwfMoEfR-oumkwfC8wyJF6qY
- Cancer risk at sites other than the breast following augmentation mammoplasty. Annals of Epidemiology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Cancer+risk+at+sites+other+than+the+breast+following+augmentation+mammoplasty
- Breast Implant Illnesses: What’s the Evidence? National Center for Health Research. http://www.center4research.org/breast-implant-illnesses-whats-evidence/#cancers
- Aziz NM, Vasey FB, Leaverton PE, et al. Comparison of clinical status among women retaining or removing gel breast implants. Presented at the American College of Epidemiology. https://serials.unibo.it/cgi-ser/start/en/spogli/df-s.tcl?prog_art=632112&language=ENGLISH&view=articoli
- Breast Implants, Self-Esteem, Quality of Life, and the Risk of Suicide. Women’s Health Issues. https://www.whijournal.com/article/S1049-3867(16)00031-1/pdf