Breast implants are among the most studied and researched medical devices in the world. Modern silicone implants were introduced to the world in the 1960s but taken off the market in the 1990s (except for women in need of reconstructive surgery) because of fears and concerns about their safety.
During the years when silicone implants were off the market, implants filled with saline were still available. After additional years of testing and study, the FDA once again approved silicone implants and they became available again in the early 2000s.
Although both silicone and saline breast implants have the FDA’s stamp of approval and are used in hundreds of thousands of breast augmentation surgeries each year, old concerns persist. There are stories of women who believe that their implants made them sick and other claims that implants cause cancer.
So, can breast implants really make you sick? If you are considering a breast surgery or you already have implants, how concerned should you be about their safety?
Is There a Connection Between Breast Implants and Autoimmune Diseases?
Usually, the immune system helps keep them healthy by attacking “intruders” and perceived threats. Those threats can be anything from a cold virus to bacteria such as e. Coli. In some cases, the immune system works overtime and attacks substances that aren’t particularly harmful, such as pollen or peanut butter. In those cases, the reaction from the immune system ends up being more dangerous the substance itself.
There are also cases when the immune system gets confused and starts attacking the body’s own cells. For example, type 1 diabetes develops when someone’s immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin.
When the immune system attacks the body, an autoimmune disease develops. What triggers autoimmune diseases or why they develop isn’t fully understand.
Some have blamed breast implants for autoimmune disorders. They note that their symptoms started around the time that they got their implants and in some cases, state that symptoms stopped after the implants were removed.
Although there are stories and anecdotes claiming that implants can be responsible for autoimmune issues, scientific studies have not yet drawn a link between the two. It could be that a person who had implants and starting experiencing symptoms of an autoimmune disorder would have had those symptoms even without the implants.
While there might not be a definitive connection between implants and autoimmune diseases, it is worth pointing out that sometimes people do have reactions to implants. If you feel discomfort or think that your body is responding to implants in a negative way, the best option for you might be to have them removed.
Can Breast Implants Cause Cancer?
Another big concern when it comes to breast implants is the potential connection between implants and cancer. Concerns about cancer were among the reason silicone implants were taken off of the market in the first place. According to the FDA, silicone implants aren’t associated with an increased risk of cancer.
But there is one type of cancer that is associated with implants: breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA ALCL). BIA ALCL is a very rare form of cancer. It occurs in about a 1 out of 3,817 to 30,000 women with implants. Although it develops around the implant and in the breasts, BIA ALCL is not a type of breast cancer. As a lymphoma, it’s a cancer of the immune system.
Not only is BIA ALCL very, very rare, it’s also very treatable, especially when detected early on. Although having textured implants seems to slightly increase the risk of developing BIA ALCL, this type of cancer has been found in patients with both silicone and saline implants.
What Can You Do If You’re Concerned About Your Implants?
Any elective medical procedure and implanted medical device bring with them the risk of complications and concerns. Most of the time, breast implants are safe, but that doesn’t make them perfect. If you are concerned about your implants, the best thing to do is to discuss your concerns with your surgeon. They might take images of the implants to see how they are doing. Or, they might recommend removal or replacement, depending on the case.
Working with a plastic surgeon who specializes in breast surgery and who has years of experience with implants can help you fully understand the risks and concerns involved with plastic surgery. Dr. Paul Vitenas is a Houston-based plastic surgeon with nearly 30 years of experience. To learn more about breast implants and to discuss any safety concerns, call 281-484-0088 to schedule a consultation today.