Breast cancer is common these days except for the fact that the awareness among people has increased multifold times. We can even notice women being upfront about removing their breasts to avoid breast cancer when it seems to be dominant in their genes. Breasts, the part of the body that’s important for feeding a newborn also holds a special place in every woman’s heart as it establishes her womanhood and makes her attractive to the male gender (this might sound silly and unnecessary but we do have to agree upon the facts of the world, isn’t it?) There might be different reasons behind removing one’s breast and there are various reasons for going for breast implants too- altering the size of the breast, changing their shape or to make them appear more even.
The surgical procedure for a breast implant is only 60-90 minutes but this is not a surgery that’s to be decided in the spur of the moment. Apart from being an expensive procedure the results are also not favorable to the patient many times. Many women plan for a surgery to achieve cosmetically attractive breasts but these implants can hinder breast feeding abilities, cause constant pain and result in removing the implant within 10 years of the surgical procedure. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) indeed has approved breast implant surgeries for augmenting breast size, reconstructing breasts after breast cancer and to correct developmental defects. While there are multiple ways to carry on a breast implant the FDA in the United States has approved only two of them: saline-filled and silicone gel-filled. While saline implants are filled with sterile saltwater any damage to the implant causes all the water content to ooze out and be expelled out of the body naturally. Silicone implants contain silicone gel which need to be often checked by the physician to ensure that it remains intact.
Realizing the Risks of Implant Surgery
Though breast implant surgery is approved by the FDA, accusations and reports from thousands of women residing worldwide that breast implants are causing extreme pain and debilitating side effects have now made the FDA to focus more on what exactly is going on with the procedure, with these woman and their health post-surgery. According to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (BAAPS), breast implant illness (BII) is a term used by individuals suffering from symptoms such as tiredness, joint aches, immune-related symptoms and sleep disruptions owing to silicone implants. While the woman suffers excruciating pain, BII is not yet recognized as a medical condition and hence, there are no diagnostic criteria or protocols to establish a treatment procedure. Though thousands of women had complained of these symptoms they were ignored quoting reasons such as being dramatic, looking to claim health insurance benefits or were experiencing the symptoms as a result of some other illness that coincided with breast implant timings. Such women who have removed their implants have been able to return to full health and some of them even though couldn’t get back to their usual self, have found great differences in their symptoms and pain, for the better. Feelings of extreme fatigues, tiredness as though the individual had taken part in a marathon or suffering from inability to perform even daily activities disappeared once these silicone or saline gels were out of the woman’s body.
Breast augmentation is one of the most popular cosmetic surgical procedures in America and in 2018 alone it was performed for more than 3,00,000 times (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/03/fda-breast-implants/585829/). Many of them have been performed by unauthorized plastic surgeons and some of them have even cost the lives of patients though the blame remains unaccepted and the procedures continue to happen. Another critical problem is an uncommon cancer of the immune system called as anaplastic large cell lymphoma that’s affected more than 400 women who have undergone breast implant surgeries. While taking off the implant stops symptoms and eliminates the disease there have been 17 of them until now who have died due to this cancer despite removal of the implant.
There are more than 10 million women who get breast implant surgeries mostly for cosmetic reasons and some for reconstruction after mastectomy. Though the silicone implants first evolved in 1960s they were banned in the United States in 1992 except for using them for mastectomy patients or to replace previous implants owing to the hazardous side effects quoted by women that even made them quit their jobs. But commercialization, business requirements and the huge flow of cash involved brought these surgeries back into the market in 2006 but with abundant rules and regulations to be followed. Another investigation involving The Guardian showed that there were more than 1,200 serious incidents linked to breast implants that have been reported in the UK since 2015 most common of which was a rare type of cancer.
There are medical devices in the market worldwide that are causing severe side effects on patients. There is an urgent need to monitor these devices, stop a few, correct many of them and then allow for a reentry into the market for use. Loving our body is one way to love ourselves. Rather than choosing cosmetic enhancement surgeries to uplift our self-esteem it’s better to cherish our gifted body and stay as much healthy as possible to lead a good quality of life. Though breast implant surgeries don’t cause side effects on all patients there is a greater chance that things could go wrong anytime with anyone. Hence, it is the physician’s duty to inform the patient of the potential side effects and ensure that the woman takes an informed decision after knowing all the side effects of the surgery, if in case she wants to proceed with it.
Reports of Breast Implant Illnesses Prompt Federal Review: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/19/health/breast-implants-fda-illness.html
Breast Implant Studies Reveal Serious Safety Concerns: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/26/breast-implants-study-reveals-serious-safety-concerns
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.