Category Archives: Have Questions?

I Had Breast Augmentation With Implants. Will Insurance Cover My Breast Implant Removal?

 

Insurance Coverage Information for Breast Implant Removal

The comments and statements of the National Center for Health Research are believed and intended to be accurate, and where applicable, based on scientific literature. NCHR’s  statements do not constitute medical diagnoses, medical advice, plans of treatment, or legal opinion, and we are not responsible for the use or application of this information. All medical information should be reviewed with your health care practitioner.
We hope that the information we’ve provided is helpful. In order to maintain this free service to all women and their families, we invite your tax-deductible contributions to continue our work (see http://breastimplantinfo.org/donations/ )

Are “Gummy Bear” Breast Implants the Safer Implants?

Diana Zuckerman, PhD, Madris Tomes, and Amelia Murphy, National Center for Health Research and Device Events

Based on the summary of book chapter in Breast Implants, Rene Simon (ed.), Nova Science Publishers, 2017.

Our new book chapter on breast implants explains that the 55-year history of breast implants reflects repeated efforts to improve their safety and effectiveness by reducing the cosmetic problems and health complications that develop during the years while they are in the human body. The most recent effort is the type of highly cohesive breast implants known as “gummy bear implants” because of the thick gel that is described as similar to gummy bear candies. The goal of the more cohesive gel is to make implants last longer and be less likely to leak. First approved in the United States in 2012, adverse event reports indicate that this newest generation of implants causes complications similar to older generations of silicone gel breast implants.

The first breast implants, made in the 1960’s, were for cosmetic enhancement. When women’s augmented breasts became hard over time, implant manufacturers responded by making the silicone gel thinner. One manufacturer, Surgitek, added polyurethane foam to the outside to make the breasts feel softer. Those design changes caused other problems, however: the thinner gel had a tendency to “bleed” through the silicone elastomer shell, which contributed to the most common complication, capsular contracture. Breast implants made with thinner gel also ruptured and leaked more easily, and the gel broke down into silicone oil which could migrate to other organs or cause silicone granulomas inside their bodies. The polyurethane foam caused other problems: implant removal was very difficult and women lost their breast tissue during explant surgery, and the foam was found to break down to a known carcinogen.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not require breast implant manufacturers to submit data to prove the implants were safe and effective until 1992. By that time, the manufacturers had developed implants with a thicker shell and a more cohesive silicone gel. However, the studies revealed that, like the earlier implants, the more cohesive implants did not “last a lifetime” as had been claimed. As a result, manufacturers continued to modify the silicone gel to make it less likely to rupture and leak.

Despite claims that gummy bear implants are safer than other breast implants, a 5-year study found that the rupture rate was more than 4% for first-time augmentation patients.  The percentage of women needing additional surgery within 5 years ranged from 17% to 48%, depending on whether the patients were augmentation patients or reconstruction patients, and whether the gummy bear implants replaced previous implants. Our analysis found that from January 1, 2008 through June 30, 2017, 1298 adverse event reports for silicone gel breast implants were made to the FDA, 252 (19%) of which were for gummy bear implants. This is very high when you keep in mind that gummy bear implants were relatively rare in the U.S. prior to FDA approval in 2012. This chapter puts these statistics in the context of what is known about the safety of silicone breast implants and how that has changed over time.

Copies of the entire book chapter are available upon request at info@center4research.org

The comments and statements of the National Center for Health Research are believed and intended to be accurate, and where applicable, based on scientific literature. NCHR’s  statements do not constitute medical diagnoses, medical advice, plans of treatment, or legal opinion, and we are not responsible for the use or application of this information. All medical information should be reviewed with your health care practitioner.
We hope that the information we’ve provided is helpful. In order to maintain this free service to all women and their families, we invite your tax-deductible contributions to continue our work (see http://breastimplantinfo.org/donations/)

What if I Need to Get My Implants Removed?

Women who have implants sometimes decide to have them removed because of complications, disappointment with how they look or feel, or concern about the long-term health risks. Some surgeons discourage patients from removing their implants. This may be because they don’t share the patient’s concerns, or because they believe that patients will be very unhappy with their appearance after the implant is removed.

The plastic surgeon who performed the original surgery is often not the best choice for removing implants. Removal can be much more complicated and expensive than the original surgery, especially after a silicone gel implant has broken. Some plastic surgeons are very experienced at removal and are especially skilled at getting the best possible cosmetic result.

It is essential to choose a plastic surgeon who specializes in removal.  He or she will probably want to remove the implants “en bloc,” which means that the implant and the intact scar tissue capsule surrounding it are all removed together. This helps remove any silicone that may have leaked from a broken gel implant, and also helps remove silicone or other chemicals that may have “bled” from the silicone outer envelope of a saline or silicone breast implant.

If the implant is removed from a healthy breast, ideally the plastic surgeon will also do a breast lift at the same time, so that the breast will not be saggy.

It is important to remove ruptured silicone gel implants as quickly as possible.  Women with ruptured silicone implants often lose breast tissue as part of the removal surgery, and the longer the implants are leaking, the more breast tissue the woman is likely to lose. If silicone has leaked into the breast tissue, the resulting removal surgery may be similar to a mastectomy. (See photo below.)  You can avoid that if you have your leaking silicone gel implants removed en bloc and before they leak a lot.

Photos of what happens when removing silicone deforms the breast. Click for larger view.
Photos of what happens when removing silicone
deforms the breast. Click for larger view.

Want your Breast Implants Removed- (2)

The comments and statements of the National Center for Health Research are believed and intended to be accurate, and where applicable, based on scientific literature. NCHR’s  statements do not constitute medical diagnoses, medical advice, plans of treatment, or legal opinion, and we are not responsible for the use or application of this information. All medical information should be reviewed with your health care practitioner.
We hope that the information we’ve provided is helpful. In order to maintain this free service to all women and their families, we invite your tax-deductible contributions to continue our work (see http://breastimplantinfo.org/donations/ )

All articles are reviewed and approved by Diana Zuckerman, PhD, and other senior staff.

My Implants Are Making Me Sick. Can Someone Help Pay for Implant Removal?

Q. My breast implants might be making me sick. Can someone help me afford medical care or help pay for implant removal?

A. We’re not doctors or lawyers and we don’t provide medical or legal advice, but we can tell you what we know based on speaking with many experts and with women who have had breast implants.

Lawsuits?

There are currently no class action suits for implants and individual suits are almost impossible. For more than 20 years, women have been asked to sign informed consent forms prior to implant surgery that are designed to protect the implant company and the physician.  Unfortunately, that means that most women who have gotten implants since then can’t sue unless the doctor committed malpractice.

There have been several class action legal settlements to provide compensation to women whose implants ruptured or caused medical problems; however, the deadlines for these settlements have passed.

Health Insurance?

Until recently, it was almost impossible to get health insurance companies to pay for removal of breast implants.  However, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), insurance companies can’t refuse to remove implants because the woman already had the implants when she got the insurance policy, for example.  We don’t know of any insurance companies that will replace breast implants for augmentation, but some companies will pay to remove implants that are leaking or causing serious medical problems. For more information on insurance coverage, click here.

If you would like help trying to get your insurance company to cover your breast implant removal, please fill out this very short survey, and we will try to help you: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/KHCWGM8  We cannot guarantee that you will receive coverage, but we are here to help you with the process of trying to get coverage.

Financial Assitance Programs?

The Common Benefit Trust has established a program to provide financial assistance for explantation surgery on behalf of women who meet certain eligibility requirements.  This assistance is in the form of a direct payment of up to $5,000 to the plastic surgeon who performs the removal surgery.  There are eight requirements that must be met in order to be eligible for this assistance.  The first requirement is that you must have at least one silicone gel-filled or double lumen type breast implant in your body that was implanted before December 31, 2006.

In order to find out how the Explant Financial Assistance Program works, learn about the eligibility requirements, and express your interest in receiving this assistance, please visit www.explantassistance.com and www.oplc.org.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact the Program Administrator at jcondra@oplc.org, or (205)252-6784.

Want your Breast Implants Removed- (2)

 

The comments and statements of the National Center for Health Research are believed and intended to be accurate, and where applicable, based on scientific literature. NCHR’s statements do not constitute medical diagnoses, medical advice, plans of treatment, or legal opinion, and we are not responsible for the use or application of this information. All medical information should be reviewed with your health care practitioner.
We hope that the information we’ve provided is helpful. In order to maintain this free service to all women and their families, we invite your tax-deductible contributions to continue our work (see http://breastimplantinfo.org/donations/)

I Am a Teenager Thinking About Getting Breast Augmentation. What Can You Tell Me to Help Me Decide?

Q. I am a teenager thinking about getting breast augmentation. What can you tell me to help me decide?

A. We’re not doctors and we don’t provide medical advice, but I can tell you what we know based on research and from speaking with many experts and with women who have had breast implants.

It is great that you are doing research about breast implants. Although it may seem that you are “done developing” that is often not true. If you have breast augmentation as a teenager, the implants could interfere with your normal development, or the resulting size and shape could be not at all what was intended as the breasts continue to develop. Women can continue to develop after age 20, and most will have more cleavage because they will gain a few pounds in their late teens and early 20’s. (In college, this is called the “Freshman 15” but it can happen whether you are in college or not, and not necessarily in the late teens.) Statistics show that most women who have breast augmentation are thinner than average. If they wait until they gain weight a few years later, they may no longer need or want augmentation.

Some women do fine with breast implants, while others have complications or health problems that can interfere with their lives. You might have read about Kacey Long, who was featured in Parade Magazine, People, and on MTV’s I Want a Famous Face. Kacey was 19 when she got saline breast implants and 21 when she had them removed. She got sick very quickly, but didn’t realize her health problems were related to her implants. She started spending all her time in bed, and was in too much pain to even comb her hair. However, when her implants were removed she immediately started to feel better. And, she also discovered that she had grown one cup size – so that when her implants were removed she was exactly the size she had wanted to be. Unfortunately, she is still paying for the augmentation surgery, since she bought the surgery on an installment plan. She was lucky to be able to borrow money from her family to have her implants removed.

You can read about Kacey and other personal stories of women who have had implants. Click here to read about another woman who got her implants when she was young and what she thinks of them today.

You can get more information about implants by checking out our website at at http://www.breastimplantinfo.org/what-you-need-to-know/. Although we believe saline implants are safer than silicone, both have a very high complication rate.

The comments and statements of the National Center for Health Research are believed and intended to be accurate, and where applicable, based on scientific literature. NCHR’s  statements do not constitute medical diagnoses, medical advice, plans of treatment, or legal opinion, and we are not responsible for the use or application of this information. All medical information should be reviewed with your health care practitioner.
We hope that the information we’ve provided is helpful. In order to maintain this free service to all women and their families, we invite your tax-deductible contributions to continue our work (see http://breastimplantinfo.org/donations/)

After Years of Being Unhappy with My Breasts, I Am Thinking of Getting Breast Implants. I Am Healthy and Want to Stay That Way. What Are the Risks?

Q. After years of being unhappy with my breasts, I am thinking of getting breast implants. I am healthy and want to stay that way. What are the risks?

A. I’m not a doctor and we don’t provide medical advice, but I can tell you what we know based on research and from speaking with many experts and with women who have had breast implants.

Breast augmentation surgery has risks, but the risks are much greater for some women than others. According to implant makers’ patient booklets, implants are not recommended for women with any of the following:

• Active infection anywhere in your body

• Autoimmune diseases (such as arthritis, lupus and scleroderma). (If family members have these diseases, that can put you at higher risk also)

• Conditions that interfere with wound healing and blood clotting

• A weakened immune system (such as currently receiving immunosuppressive therapy)

Women who have breast cancer in their family are often concerned when they learn that implants can hide cancerous tumors. Saline and silicone breast implants show up as solid white shapes on a mammogram, hiding any tumors above or below. The latest research finds that half of the breast tissue (and half of the tumors) are obscured by breast implants, even when specially trained technicians use additional mammogram views for women with implants.

Even younger women have found that their implants interfere with an early diagnosis. Survivor star Jennifer Lyon died of breast cancer at age 37 in early 2010. According to Jennifer, in 2004 “I felt something in my right breast that didn’t feel normal. I thought it was probably scar tissue related to my breast implants. So I let it go — for a long time.” Jennifer was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer two months after the tenth season of ‘Survivor’ wrapped in 2005.

All breast implants, silicone or saline, have high complication rates. Research conducted by implant manufacturers and analyzed by the FDA finds that most women have at least one serious complication within the first 3 years. Two of the most common are capsular contracture (which causes breast hardness and pain) and the need for additional surgery.

Most women like the way the implants look and feel for the first few years, but after that many find their implants look less natural or start to feel too firm or hard, and can be very painful. If an implant breaks or causes pain, surgery is necessary – but we hear from many women who can’t afford to pay to have their implants surgically removed. Unfortunately, surgery to fix implant problems can cost more than the augmentation itself. That is why we urge women not to have augmentation surgery unless they have at least an extra $5,000 in savings that they can put away and not spend until they need additional surgery.

The biggest controversy about breast implants is whether they can cause diseases or symptoms that are not in the breast area. We have talked to many implant patients who describe “flu-like” symptoms, or their joints hurt, or their hair started falling out. That’s what happened to Kacey Long, who was featured in Parade Magazine and on MTV’s I Want a Famous Face. Kacey was 19 when she got implants and 21 when she had them removed. She got arthritis and could barely get out of bed, but didn’t think it was related to her implants. However, when her implants were removed she immediately started to feel better.

You can get more information about what to expect if you get implants by checking out our website at http://www.breastimplantinfo.org/before-you-get-implants/.

You can also read some more personal stories of women who have had implants, including Kacey’s story, on our website at http://www.breastimplantinfo.org/personal-stories/ and you can look at some photos of common implant problems at http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/BreastImplants/ucm064106.htm.

When studies include women who have implants for just a few months or years, the women seem quite healthy. However, one study by NIH scientists found that women with breast implants for at least 12 years were twice as likely to die of brain cancer, lung cancer, or suicide, compared to other plastic surgery patients. A Canadian study found that women with breast implants were more likely to be hospitalized in the years following their augmentation surgery, than women who did not have breast augmentation.

Of course, many things in life have risks, and only you can decide what risks you are willing to take. Some women are happy with their implants, but we know many who wish they had never made that choice.

We hope this information has been helpful.

The comments and statements of the National Center for Health Research are believed and intended to be accurate, and where applicable, based on scientific literature. NCHR’s statements do not constitute medical diagnoses, medical advice, plans of treatment, or legal opinion, and we are not responsible for the use or application of this information. All medical information should be reviewed with your health care practitioner.
We hope that the information we’ve provided is helpful. In order to maintain this free service to all women and their families, we invite your tax-deductible contributions to continue our work (see http://breastimplantinfo.org/donations/)

My Silicone Gel Breast Implant May Be Leaking. How Do I Find Out if It Is Leaking, and What Should I Do if It Is?

Q. My silicone gel breast implant may be leaking. How do I find out if it is leaking, and what should I do if it is?

A. We’re not doctors and we don’t provide medical advice, but I can tell you what we know based on research and from speaking with many experts and with women who have had breast implants.

The best way to tell if a silicone breast implant has ruptured or is leaking is to have an MRI with a breast coil. Unfortunately MRIs are expensive, but necessary because a mammogram can not accurately detect a rupture or leak. And, the squeezing from a mammogram can cause a broken implant to leak. A sonogram can be useful but only if the radiologist is specially trained to detect implant ruptures and leaks — and very few are. That’s why an MRI is the best strategy, although that also needs to be read by someone who has experience looking for a rupture or leak in a silicone breast implant.

FDA scientists found that by the time women have implants for at least 10 years, at least one of them has usually ruptured. However, implants often break sooner, sometimes even within the first year. For women with saline breast implants, a broken implant is obvious because it usually deflates quickly. However, when silicone gel breast implants break, there are often no symptoms at all for a year or more. Years later, there are several symptoms that many women report: the breast changes shape or gets smaller, lumps or bumps may appear on the breast or nearby, some women complain of a burning pain, and some women experience symptoms of autoimmune disease, such as joint pain, memory loss, confusion, or chronic fatigue.

Many plastic surgeons believe that silicone is “perfectly safe.” However, experts who have read the research agree that a ruptured silicone gel breast implant should be removed as soon as possible, especially if it is leaking. The MRI can help the plastic surgeon know where the problem areas are so he or she can avoid leakage during removal. Removing broken implants soon means there is less chance that the silicone will leak outside the scar tissue that surrounds the implant. It is important to have the procedure performed by a plastic surgeon who is very experienced in removing leaking silicone implants. Old or broken silicone gel breast implants should be removed “en bloc.” This means that the entire implant and the entire scar tissue capsule surrounding it are all removed together. This makes it easier to remove any silicone that may have leaked from the broken gel implant and also helps remove silicone or other chemicals that may have seeped out from the silicone envelope into the scar capsule.

A study conducted by Dr Noreen Aziz from the National Cancer Institute and Dr Frank Vasey from University of South Florida found that most women who had rheumatological symptoms (such as joint pain) felt significantly better after getting their breast implants removed and not replaced. Those who didn’t get their implants removed usually got worse. Those who had them removed and replaced (with silicone implants or saline) implants did not get better.

For examples of women who had less pain and other symptoms after their implants were removed, see the personal stories on our website at http://www.breastimplantinfo.org/personal-stories/. You also might want to check out www.explantation.com to hear from women who have had their implants removed and not replaced. Many felt healthier, happier, and more attractive afterwards.

We hope this information is helpful. Check our website for more information, or feel free to write to us.

The comments and statements of the National Center for Health Research are believed and intended to be accurate, and where applicable, based on scientific literature. NCHR’s  statements do not constitute medical diagnoses, medical advice, plans of treatment, or legal opinion, and we are not responsible for the use or application of this information. All medical information should be reviewed with your health care practitioner.
We hope that the information we’ve provided is helpful. In order to maintain this free service to all women and their families, we invite your tax-deductible contributions to continue our work (see http://breastimplantinfo.org/donations/)

My Saline Breast Implant Deflated. What Should I Do?

Q. My saline breast implant deflated. What should I do?

A. We’re not doctors and we don’t provide medical advice, but I can tell you what we know based on research and from speaking with many experts and with women who have had breast implants.

Once a saline breast implant has deflated, it can not be refilled. If your implants have not caused any health problems before they deflate, ruptured saline implants are relatively safe if there is no mold, bacteria, or fungus. If any of these are present, you will probably notice symptoms of infection or allergic-type symptoms.

If your implants are more than a few years old, it makes sense to remove both implants at the same time, even if only one of them has ruptured. The cost of implant removal, with or without replacement, is very similar whether it involves one implant or two. As implants get older it becomes more and more likely that they will rupture. Rather than have two surgeries, it makes sense to remove (and if you want to replace) both implants together.

Many plastic surgeons are reluctant to remove an implant without replacing it because they are concerned that the patient will be very unhappy with their appearance after the implant is removed. The breast tissue stretches from the implant, and if the surgeon is not skilled in explantation without replacement, the breast is unlikely to be as attractive as it was before the implant surgery. However, after implants are removed by an experienced explant surgeon, many women are very pleased with the way their breasts look and feel. You can read some of their stories on the www.explantation.com website.

Whether or not you decide to replace your implants, you need a plastic surgeon that you are confident will do a great job. Removal can be much more complicated and expensive than the original surgery. Some plastic surgeons are very experienced at removal and are especially skilled at getting the best possible cosmetic result. The surgeon you choose should be board certified and should be willing to show you pictures of many patients’ post-explantation results, or better still, offer to have former patients talk to you. Find out if they were happy with their doctor and with their results.

The comments and statements of the National Center for Health Research are believed and intended to be accurate, and where applicable, based on scientific literature. NCHR’s  statements do not constitute medical diagnoses, medical advice, plans of treatment, or legal opinion, and we are not responsible for the use or application of this information. All medical information should be reviewed with your health care practitioner.
We hope that the information we’ve provided is helpful. In order to maintain this free service to all women and their families, we invite your tax-deductible contributions to continue our work (see http://breastimplantinfo.org/donations/)

I Am Wondering if Some of My Health Problems Are Caused by My Breast Implants

Are Your Breast Implants Making You Sick- (2)

Q. I am wondering if some of my health problems are caused by my breast implants.

A. We’re not doctors and we don’t provide medical advice, but I can tell you what we know based on research and from speaking with many experts and with women who have had breast implants.

In testimony before the FDA, women with implants have described symptoms such as joint pain, chronic fatigue, mental confusion, hair loss, and flu-like symptoms. These are considered to be auto-immune symptoms, and according to the FDA, some of these symptoms are more common for women two years after getting silicone gel breast implants than they are before the women got breast implants. Those findings are based on the FDA’s analysis of women with silicone gel breast implants, and were made public on April 12-13, 2005 at a public meeting of the FDA advisory panel on breast implants.

All breast implants, even saline implants, are enveloped in an outer shell made of silicone. The envelope also contains other chemicals and some heavy metals, such as microscopic amounts of platinum or tin, which vary during the manufacturing process. Unfortunately, some women have a negative reaction to those substances. Although silicone is considered “biocompatible” and most people don’t have an allergic or autoimmune response, some people do. (Just as some people have an allergic response to peanuts or bee stings).

Any woman could potentially have a bad reaction to silicone or other substances in breast implants. However, the risks are higher for some women than others. Implant makers warn women with certain medical histories in their family or who have specific medical conditions that breast implants could be especially risky for them. Women who have family members with autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, MS, or lupus are one of the examples. Here is their exact language, located on the FDA website: http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/BreastImplants/ucm063743.htm.

In a study of women who had breast implants for at least 7 years, FDA scientists found that women with leaking silicone gel breast implants were more likely to have fibromyalgia and other painful diseases than women with implants that were not leaking. Symptoms of fibromyalgia include pain and chronic fatigue. The FDA study was the first and most well-designed study evaluating the health effects of leaking silicone breast implants. Unfortunately, not all plastic surgeons are aware of the study, which is described in more detail on our website http://www.breastimplantinfo.org/what-you-need-to-know/ and the FDA website http://www.fda.gov/downloads/AdvisoryCommittees/CommitteesMeetingMaterials/MedicalDevices/MedicalDevicesAdvisoryCommittee/GeneralandPlasticSurgeryDevicesPanel/UCM269672.pdf.

The good news is that research shows that many women with breast implants and rheumatologic pain and symptoms find that their health improves dramatically after their implants are removed and not replaced. Dr. Frank Vasey from the University of South Florida and Dr. Noreen Aziz, a scientist at National Cancer Institute, found that most women with pain, fatigue, and other rheumatology symptoms felt better after their silicone implants were removed and not replaced. Many symptoms lessened or disappeared over the next few months. In contrast, most women who did not have their implants removed became even more ill. Those who had their implants removed and replaced with saline usually did not get better either.

You might have read about Kacey Long, who was featured in Parade Magazine, People, and on MTV’s I Want a Famous Face. Kacey was 19 when she got saline breast implants and 21 when she had them removed. She got sick very quickly, but didn’t realize her health problems were related to her implants. She started spending all her time in bed, and was in too much pain to even comb her hair. However, when her implants were removed she immediately started to feel better.

For examples of women who had similar symptoms and felt better after their implants were removed, see the personal stories on our website at http://www.breastimplantinfo.org/personal-stories/.

If the symptoms the other women describe sound like you, you may want to consider having your implants removed. If you have silicone gel breast implants that are broken, it is important to have them removed as soon as possible. For more information about that, read the other FAQs.

The comments and statements of the National Center for Health Research are believed and intended to be accurate, and where applicable, based on scientific literature. NCHR’s  statements do not constitute medical diagnoses, medical advice, plans of treatment, or legal opinion, and we are not responsible for the use or application of this information. All medical information should be reviewed with your health care practitioner.
We hope that the information we’ve provided is helpful. In order to maintain this free service to all women and their families, we invite your tax-deductible contributions to continue our work (see http://breastimplantinfo.org/donations/)

Should I Get Silicone or Saline Implants? Is There a Price Difference?

Q. Should I get silicone or saline implants? Is there a price difference?

A. We believe that saline breast implants are safer than silicone gel implants.

All breast implants have risks. The most common is when the breast gets hard and painful, known as capsular contracture. Many women with implants have that problem after a few years, but it appears to be more common with silicone gel breast implants than saline implants.

Implant surgery usually costs between $5,000-8,000, including the implants and one follow-up visit. Silicone gel breast implants cost about $1,000 more than saline implants.

However, there are a lot of extra expenses that you need to be aware of.

For example, saline implants and silicone implants both have a high complication rate, and almost half the women will need additional surgery to fix implant problems within 3-4 years. Some problems are cosmetic (if the breasts look phony) and some problems are more serious (such as infections, allergic reactions, or auto-immune reactions). That additional surgery often costs $5,000 or more. That is why we suggest that women considering breast implants make sure they have at least $5,000 in their savings that they will save and not spend until they need it for their next implant surgery.

All breast implants will eventually break, but when saline implants break it is obvious (they deflate quickly) and when silicone gel breast implants break, there are often no symptoms at first. Having no symptoms might seem like an advantage, but it is really a disadvantage because silicone can leak out of the tear in the implant, and get to parts of the body where surgeons can’t remove it. Leaking silicone can cause pain and allergic or auto-immune reactions. When it is removed, the breast may be deformed.

Because of concerns about leaking silicone, the FDA warns that women with silicone gel breast implants need to get an MRI to check for leakage after 3 years, and then every other year after that. Unfortunately, breast MRIs cost about $2,000 each, sometimes more. That may seem very expensive, but it is the only accurate way to know if your implants are broken or leaking. If they are leaking, it is important to have them removed immediately.

Given the expense and the risks, why would any woman get silicone gel breast implants? There is one advantage: they feel more like a real breast. Saline implants may not feel as warm as the rest of the body in cold weather. (A figure skater told us they were painfully cold!) And, women with saline implants sometimes say that they make swooshing water noises. Most plastic surgeons prefer silicone gel implants because they tend to look and feel more natural. However, many women tell us that does not make up for the added risks and added costs.

But, it is important to know that all breast implants – saline or silicone – can cause serious health problems. They can even cause a type of cancer of the immune system, known as anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).

The bottom line: all breast implants will break, all breast implants are likely to cause complications that require additional surgery, and some women will have a bad reaction within a few weeks or months of getting their breast implants. Some complications are very serious. But some breast implants are safer than others, and since all silicone gel breast implants are more likely to leak as they get older, we believe that saline implants are safer.

The comments and statements of the National Center for Health Research are believed and intended to be accurate, and where applicable, based on scientific literature. NCHR’s  statements do not constitute medical diagnoses, medical advice, plans of treatment, or legal opinion, and we are not responsible for the use or application of this information. All medical information should be reviewed with your health care practitioner.
We hope that the information we’ve provided is helpful. In order to maintain this free service to all women and their families, we invite your tax-deductible contributions to continue our work (see http://breastimplantinfo.org/donations/ )