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Can Breast Implants Cause Illness?

My Surgery Guide
Nov 5, 2021

If you’re considering breast augmentation — and you’re a little skittish about the idea of surgery — your mind might immediately jump to the worst. You might think about all the unexpected side effects of breast implants, or worry what the most common complications are with breast augmentation.

Fortunately, most of your fears are unfounded. These days, when done properly, getting breast implants is remarkably safe, and complications are rare. In fact, the FDA puts the percentage of complications around 1% — and even then, most of these complications are minor.

Still, you might be concerned that your breast implants can cause illness. In this article, we’re going to detail if that’s possible, and if it is, what causes it.

What are the risks of getting breast implants?

While getting breast implants is generally safe, there are a number of complications that can arise from adding a bit of silicone to your bust.

The most commonly reported side effects are pain and asymmetry. Pain is self-explanatory; some people report a lingering tenderness or sting with their implants, with the pain itself often having a wide range of potential causes.

Asymmetry is simply the fact that breast implants will not always appear as one might expect. Each breast may take to the implant differently, causing them to hang differently. Additionally, the nipples may become misshapen or asymmetrical, a common cause for concern for those who get implants.

While these side effects are relatively minor, there are more serious risks that must be considered. 

For example, among side effects like rupture, deflation, and capsular contracture (where scar tissue forms around the implant and squeezes it), getting breast implants may also lead to Breast Implant Associated-Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or cancer of the immune system. 

There is also a greater phenomena of Breast Implant Illness, or BII. This is a general term used to refer to a range of symptoms often attributed to breast implants. These symptoms are so wide-reaching that it’s difficult to categorize them as a singular illness — for example, everything from chronic fatigue to anxiety to gastrointestinal problems has been linked to BII, often with the onset of these symptoms ranging from days to years.

What are the Most Serious Illnesses Associated with Breast Implants?

As previously mentioned, getting breast implants may lead to you developing BIA-ALCL. While this is a serious cancer, there are so few known cases of it that the FDA has trouble providing many specifics about it.

In general, though the cancer can be deadly, it can be treated with early detection by removing the implant and the surrounding scar tissue. In some cases, patients may also have to undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

The signs for BIA-ALCL include persistent swelling, the appearance of something else forming near the implant, or pain in the area of the implant. These often occur years after the implant procedure has concluded.

Reports about other cancers stemming from breast implants are to-date inconclusive.

Are Certain Implants More Likely to Develop Illnesses?

There seems to be no difference in risk of cancer development between silicone and saline breast implants.

Still, there are some notable differences between the types of implants, specifically with regards to surface texturing.

While data is limited, the FDA has said that textured implants present a higher risk of BIA-ALCL than non-textured or smooth implants. Additionally, certain textured tissue expanders have been linked to a higher risk of BIA-ALCL.

How Do I Reduce My Risk of Breast Implant-Related Illness?

Make sure that you are getting your breast implant procedure performed by a qualified specialist. 

Additionally, listen to your body after you’ve had a procedure. If something seems off, do not be afraid to seek medical assistance. More often than not, your ailment will simply be something minor that will go away with time — but in cases like these, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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