Are Breast Implants Safe?
As the old sayings go, there’s a grain of truth behind every joke and every “just kidding” insult that tends to make them really hit home. These days, take a kernel of truth about elevated risk in popular lore about breast implants, combine it with the faint remembrance of trouble with leaking silicone breast implants many years ago, and you get widespread fear, uncertainty and doubt. Indeed, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, there has been close to a 15% drop in breast augmentation surgery since 2018.
So, the question is, are breast implants really safe? With confidence, we tell our New York breast augmentation patients that yes, surgery with implants is safe. We would never dismiss a woman’s concerns about possible disease, nor would we make light of any symptoms someone with the devices may have. But for the most part, breast enhancement with implants is safe. Let’s explore.
The Kernel of Truth: BIA-ALCL
Here’s a concern about breast implant risks that’s real. In 2011, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration published information about a link between breast implants and a certain type of lymphoma, or cancer of the immune system. The disease is now called BIA-ALCL, or breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma. The risk of contracting BIA-ALCL is real but very low—between about 1:4,000 and 1:30,000 according to the FDA—and as of last year there were just over 30 deaths worldwide attributed to the disease.
Studies have ramped up quickly. The medical community has learned that while filling does not seem to be a factor, implants with textured surfaces have been associated with cases of BIA-ALCL and smooth-surfaced models have not. Researchers speculate that there may also be a genetic component that puts certain women at higher risk, but that possible connection has not yet been identified. Read more about what the FDA has to say about BIA-ALCL here.
Symptoms of the disease include swelling inside the breast, a hard mass and/or pain. These are potential complications we advise our New York breast implant patients to watch out for—they could signal a minor issue or something more concerning. When BIA-ALCL is caught early, it is almost always curable with implant removal.
Breast Implant Illness
Another reason some women are hesitant to move forward with breast augmentation is a condition that has been called Breast Implant Illness, or BII. An article from Harvard Health Publishing earlier this year noted that some women with implants have a collection of strange symptoms they may attribute to the devices, ranging from anxiety and depression to chills and hair loss. We agree with what Harvard has to say about BII—the symptoms are real, no doubt, but it’s not clear that implants are at fault. Menopause, autoimmune disorders and other conditions can cause similar problems.
Having performed plastic surgery including breast augmentation in New York for decades, it feels to us that the experiences women attribute to breast implants echo the furor over particular silicone models years ago that prompted the FDA to take them off the market for a time. Today’s breast implants are improved and implantation techniques have evolved too. Moreover, we note there’s no evidence firmly linking breast implants—those of yesterday or today—to the malaise some women experience.
Still, when a patient (rarely) comes to us with symptoms of any kind, we always take her seriously, investigate possible causes thoroughly and work together to get her feeling well. We fully acknowledge that mysteries still abound in medical science, and what’s important to us is patient wellness.
Still Worried About Breast Implants?
Learning about potential risks and complications of breast implants is something we advise every New York breast augmentation patient to do. We encourage women with implants who are asymptomatic to be on the lookout for changes and visit us with any concerns.
We hope those who would like to move ahead with breast augmentation will schedule a consultation by calling 212-570-6080. In an in-person discussion we can review the risks and help in decision making. We can also outline alternatives such as fat transfer to the breast. We can’t emphasize it enough—our number one goal is the happiness and good health of our patients!