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Greg Webb
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Breast Implants Causing More Problems?

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Last January 2011, we learned more about breast implants possibly contributing to problems in women who have experienced breast cancer and have had either saline or silicone implants. At that time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wanted to create a registry of breast cancer cases by using data from breast cancer surgeons to help track cancer patients and “to better track any possible link between breast implants and anaplastic large cell lymphoma” (ALCL), a form of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Then, approximately 60[1] cases of ALCL had been reported world-wide, and there was concern that there may be other existing cases and that women having undergone implant surgery might be at risk for ALCL. This particular lymphoma usually arises at the site of the implant, from scar tissue. In response to the media exposure at that time, the Plastic Surgery Channel’s Dr. Caroline Glicksman indicated that FDA still considered implants ”safe and effective devices” noting that most of the problems occurred in women whose implants were not what is known now as “stable implants, or ‘gummy bears’”.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are risks to breast reconstruction or augmentation when using saline or silicone-filled implants, which include:

  • Breast pain
  • Potentially permanent changes in breast sensation
  • Infection
  • Scar tissue that distorts the shape of the breast implant
  • Implant leakage or rupture
  • Need for additional breast surgery.

Today, although it is believed that silicone breast implants are relatively safe, the FDA’s Director of the Center for Devices, Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, reported to CNN that, “One in 5 women who received implants for breast augmentation implants will need to have those implants removed within 10 years.” He noted that “complications from implants can occur, including scar tissue formation around the implant, implant rupture, and the need for additional surgery or for the removal of the breast implant.” FDA’s Shuren also said, “Women also experience breast pain, wrinkling and asymmetry. Manufacturers and physicians must continue to provide up-to-date information to patients who are considering breast implants.”

Like most risk/benefit analyses, whether to have breast implants may be boiled down to whether the desire for increased self-esteem – resulting from improved cosmetic appearance – outweighs the disadvantages of breast implants which may include side effects and health risks (present or future).



[1] The Plastic Surgery Channel reported the number of cases (as of January 27, 2011, to be “34 cases” so there is some conflict vis a vis the reported numbers of cases, however, the 60 case-number was noted today, by FDA’s Shuren.