It could be argued that along with the Pill, breast implants put the rhetoric of the women’s liberation movement into practice.
While the Pill protects so-called reproductive health, breast implants are a physical manifestation of the rallying progressive cry “my body, my choice.” If a woman isn’t happy with her physical appearance for whatever reason, she has the ability to increase her breast size in an invasive and unnatural way, a medical procedure that has been popular now for nearly 50 years.
An estimated 37% of women ages 18 to 34 get breast implants, a statistic which should be concerning given the effects of this surgery and how susceptible this age bracket of women are to low self-esteem and unachievable beauty standards reinforced by social media. If you're considering getting breast implants because you're unhappy with your appearance, it is in fact your choice. However, before undergoing the knife, here are eight complications you should know about.
1. Breast Implant Illness
Often used as a catch-all umbrella term, breast implant illness (BII) can include a wide range of symptoms associated with implants, everything from skin rashes to chronic fatigue to early menopause and autoimmune disorders. Though the exact cause of BII is hard to pinpoint, it’s usually regarded as a response to the inflammation and bacterial growth caused by the implants.
2. Capsular Contracture
Capsular contracture is a common complication of breast implant surgery, and it can occur years or even mere months after a procedure. Because breast augmentation is essentially putting two foreign objects in your body, the body’s natural response is to form scar tissue around the implants. Capsular contracture happens when the scar tissue creates a tough barrier around the implant, making the breast harden or tighten. This will sometimes cause one breast to appear higher or lower than the other, or even misshapen. About 75% of capsular contractures happen within the first year or two of having the surgery. Additional surgery is required to fix capsular contracture, but before we had the medical advancements we have today, a plastic surgeon would literally have to cup the implant with his hands and crush the scar tissue around the implant manually.
The body’s natural response is to form scar tissue around the implants, which can distort their appearance.
3. Changes in Feeling
Losing sensation in the breast is a well-known side effect of getting implants. Many women report losing all sensation in the breast or nipple area. Losing sensation or even heightened sensitivity in the area can affect both breastfeeding capability and sexual intimacy.
4. Bottoming Out
Breast tissue descending lower than the nipple’s position is what’s known as bottoming out, and is prevalent in women who have breastfed or have poor skin elasticity from age or excess skin from weight loss procedures and exercise – in many ways, the perfect target for breast augmentation. Treatment for bottoming out requires additional surgery.
Because the surgery often damages nipple sensation, lacking feeling in the breast makes it difficult to produce prolactin and oxytocin, hormones that are essential to the breastfeeding process. The feeling of a baby nursing stimulates the production of these hormones, and without that feeling, the breastfeeding process may be difficult. Even though implants are often placed behind the breast’s milk glands, having implants and breastfeeding may potentially change the shape of the breasts permanently.
6. Possible Rupture
Both silicone and saline implants can rupture for a variety of reasons, though detecting a silicone implant rupture is harder to notice than a saline one. Both ruptures will cause the implant to look deflated and the breast to appear misshapen and deformed, and have to be fixed with surgery. Specifically, a rupture requires the breast cavity or pocket of the previous implant to be cleaned of its debris, and a new implant put in to replace the old one. It’s also possible that the silicone could leak into other parts of the body once it’s ruptured. Some ruptures may require an MRI or mammogram to see how completely the implant has been fractured.
A ruptured implant can leak silicone into other parts of the body.
Perhaps the most serious of consequences when it comes to breast implant illness is breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma. This type of cancer is not a form of breast cancer, but a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or an immune system cancer. The most noticeable symptoms are persistent pain around the implant or possible capsular contracture. Fluid may also collect and build up around the implant. BIA-ALCL typically originates in the scar tissue near the implant, but as with any cancer, it can spread to the rest of the body. This type of complication requires explant surgery (surgery designated to remove the implants) in addition to radiation and chemotherapy.
Known as uniboob, symmastia occurs when breast implants migrate to a certain point over the sternum, resulting in the breasts touching each other and giving the appearance of one breast instead of two. Symmastia can happen when a woman’s implants are too large or wide for her chest cavity, causing them to merge. Though symmastia can be fixed with surgery, the procedure to repair this issue is much more complicated than others.
You might not think that when you get breast implants, you’re also signing up for multiple additional surgeries throughout your life. Sadly, that’s what many women who’ve experienced one or more of these complications have had to confront. Not to mention, it’s recommended that you get a new set of implants every 10 or so years. When you get implants, you’re not undergoing a one-and-done type of procedure. This surgery has the potential to negatively affect your health for the rest of your life.
We might equate the surgery that will truly make us happy to driving a new luxury car off the lot. But just like that car which has all the appearance of empowerment and fulfillment, the value will harshly depreciate over time and the maintenance and upkeep might keep us strapped for cash for years to come. That, and it might take our health down with it.
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