Know Your Product: Breast Implants

Breast augmentation or what are called boob jobs are becoming breast surgeries of choice for women these days. They are also the most requested cosmetic surgical procedures according to statistics by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Whether this is good or bad- let's find out!Boob jobs use breast implants, small sacs filled with saline or silicone that are surgically implanted under the skin or the muscle in your chest to increase breast size and in some cases "improve shape".

Implants are also used for breast reconstruction when a part of the breast or all of it is removed in case of breast cancer or due to trauma.

Breast Implant surgery and BDD

Breast implant surgery, some would say is a part and parcel of a culture that encourages women to ‘not feel good about themselves’. It’s a cosmetic surgery just like nose jobs, chin implants, facelifts etc. and body dysmorphic disorders or BDD play a big role in all of them. 

BDD, as we know is an extreme obsession with a part of your body like the skin, nose, and breasts, amongst others, in which you keep on thinking about that particular part like the size of your breasts all the time to the point of obsession. 

Several studies have proved the link between breast augmentation and dysmorphia. “The Body Image Concerns of Breast Augmentation Patients (2003)” and “Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Cosmetic Surgery (2006)” are two seminal studies that have reported that women who underwent breast augmentation surgery also had undergone psychotherapy, suffered low self-esteem, had had frequent occurrences of depression, had attempted suicide, and suffered from body dysmorphia.

The study “Excess Mortality from Suicide and other External Causes of Death Among Women with Cosmetic Breast Implants (2007)”, reported that women who sought breast implants are almost three times more likely to commit suicide as compared to women who have not sought breast implants. 

Altogether seven studies have statistically connected a woman’s breast augmentation to a greater suicide-rate and proved beyond any doubt that the psychologically fragile women are more likely to undergo a breast augmentation procedure.

While studies link cosmetic surgeries to degrees of mental dissatisfaction, a lot many women may even find the process empowering for themselves.

Here’s how boob jobs are typically done

During breast augmentation, a breast implant is placed inside the chest, under the existing breast to increase size.

The first time a breast implant is inserted, it’s called primary augmentation. Boob jobs are not a one-time procedure and revision –augmentations are the norm. 

The types of breast implants available are saline and silicone. Saline breast implants are filled with sterile salt water. These can leak and collapse just like the silicone ones but should this happen the salt water is absorbed and naturally expelled by your body.

Ruptures are thus very easy to detect and what is best about these implants is that they are the cheapest options and can be introduced through smaller incisions.

Silicone breast implants, on the other hand, are filled with silicone gel. These are being preferred by many women over saline implants as the gel feels a bit more like natural breast tissue. The cons are that they require a slightly longer incision in the skin as compared to saline breast implants. Also, if the implant leaks, the gel may remain within the implant cover, or may escape into the breast implant pocket in your chest. And you may not know about this as the implant does not collapse on leakage. 

This is a big problem and means that you need to visit your plastic surgeon regularly to make sure the implants are functioning properly and get screened using an ultrasound or MRI.

Silicone implants are available as the traditional silicone implants and the highly cohesive silicone gel or gummy bear silicone implants. The second type is being preferred these days as they are a  bit thicker and firmer than implants filled with traditional silicone and also because they rupture less. But, they are harder to the touch and don’t feel natural at all and are also the most expensive breast implants in the market.

It’s great to have so much variety in implants available but the challenge is to find an implant that suits your needs exactly.

Pros of breast implant surgery 

Deciding to have breast augmentation is a truly personal decision. I've talked to lots of women who’ve had implants for years and have never had any problems. Most women also report an improvement in their self-image and sex life after an implant. And, scores of women use breast augmentation to regain their pre-pregnancy body through a 'Mommy Makeover'.

Most of these ladies, however, have gone for an implant surgery after consulting a good surgeon, making sure that they were not doing it due to a psychological issue, choosing the right implant and following up with MRIs and mammograms.

Cons of breast implant surgery

1.    If you, like lots of women I know, want to try out breast implants after pregnancy, breastfeeding and ageing to correct drooping or sagging, please understand that breast implants are used to make the breast larger and they alone may not adequately lift the breast, or correct the effects of pregnancy, and weight loss. You will need to have additional procedures at the time of the breast augmentation, such as a breast lift, to get perkier breasts. 

2.    Breast implants are also not lifetime devices, and breast implantation is not a one-time surgery. Before going for a boob job, be aware that you may need additional unplanned surgeries on your breasts because of complications or unacceptable cosmetic outcomes. The implant can also rupture and may have to be removed. Repeated breast surgeries can reduce your breast tissue and cause scar formation. 

3.    Revision-augmentation surgery is riskier and has more future complications as compared to first-time augmentation surgery.

4.    Many of the changes to your breast following implantation are irreversible, even if you hate them.

5.     Breast implants do affect your ability to breastfeed, either by reducing or completely cutting off milk production. 

6.    You will need regular MRI examinations over your lifetime in order to determine if a silent silicone implant rupture is present. Your first MRI has to be done after three years of your primary implant surgery and then every two years, thereafter. The cost of MRI screening thus may exceed the cost of your initial surgery over your lifetime. 

7.    Routine screening mammography for breast cancer becomes more difficult with implants. 

8.    Because the breast and implant are squeezed during mammography, an implant may rupture during the procedure. 

9.    You will also find it difficult to do breast self-exams to rule out cancer as it’s hard to distinguish the implant from your breast tissue.

10.    Most women claim that they have no feeling in their nipple and breast after implant surgery. This may affect your sex life or your ability to nurse your baby. 

11.    Extrusion of the implants occurs when it comes out through your skin. This occurs just after surgery when your wound has not closed or later when breast tissue covering your implants weakens due to the weight of the implants. 

12.    There are also concerns that a small amount of silicone can pass into breast milk during breastfeeding. 

Breast implant complications

Breast augmentation is a surgical procedure and can involve serious risks related to the effects of anaesthesia, infection, swelling, redness, bleeding, pain, and can even cause death, and all of these need to be balanced against the benefits of the breast augmentation surgery. 

Infection is also possible at any time after surgery. Infections in breast tissue with an implant present are also harder to treat than infections in tissue without an implant. If your infection does not respond to antibiotics, the implant may have to be removed. In rare instances, toxic shock syndrome has been noted after breast implant surgery, and it is a life-threatening condition. 

Hematoma/ Seroma are also possible complications. The implant can fail due to these conditions. 

Chest wall deformity is also seen in women after implant surgery, and this may require extra surgeries.

Do not go for a breast implant surgery if you have breast cancer, have an active infection anywhere in your body, are currently pregnant or nursing, or if you have an autoimmune disease like lupus.

Similarly, if you have been diagnosed with depression or other mental health disorders, including body dysmorphic disorder and eating disorders, this surgery is not for you till the time you seek treatment for your mental issues. 

Convalescence is a long process after breast augmentation, and it usually takes longer if you have had an implant placed beneath the chest muscles. Just take care not to exercise during convalescence that typically lasts for approximately six weeks and visit your doctor if you see or feel anything suspicious in your breasts. 

Make an informed choice and only then go in for breast augmentation. All the breast!!

About the Author

Shikha Gandhi