For centuries women have been conscious about their figure. "Does this make me look fat? Do I look too big in this dress?" and more recently "are my breasts too small?" It may come as a surprise, but breast implants are not new. For more than a century there have been many attempts at helping women get bigger breasts. Surgeons have tried everything from injecting paraffin into women's chests through to inserting sponges and ivory balls. They have even implanted wool into Ox’s cartilage which was then surgically inserted into the breasts of unwilling guinea pigs. None has succeeded and all have had complications, which have included: infections, hardening of the breasts and unseemly large scars. It wasn't until World War 2 that Japanese women directly injected Silicone into their breasts to entice the American Soldiers. This became so popular that Silicone became a precious material. Unfortunately this was short lived as once again women soon noticed that their breasts became discoloured and infected.
Recently we have seen some of the 'modern' complications of breast implants with some of them rupturing. The implant manufacturer in question is the French company Polyimplant Prostheses (PIP). With so many of these implants rupturing, the question on many women's mind is: "Should we be worried and if so does this make breast implants dangerous?"
In 1962, a small company called Dow Corning met with two Houston cosmetic surgeons and between them the first safe Silicone implant was made. Since then little has changed in the implant itself, with only a slight modification for safety reasons. The problem with the PIP implant was the use of sub-standard industrial silicone.
On 8th January 2012, The Sunday Times reported on a recent audit by Stanek and Berry. The Journal of Plastic, Reconstruction and Aesthetic Surgery stated that out of 453 patients who underwent surgery and had PIP implants, between 16% – 34% ruptured, compared with 0.9% failure rate in other surgical implants. The UK Government has stated that although these figures appear to be significantly higher than they would like, the current data is unreliable and that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) are currently reviewing and analysing the national failure rate of these products.
Why do people have breast implants and what are the risks? The two main reasons for breast implant insertions are post mastectomy (removal of the breast due to cancer) or for cosmetic reasons, usually to enhance the size or the shape of the breast. However, as with any cosmetic surgery, breast implant insertions are not a quick fix and therefore not a decision to be made lightly. Not only should people think about the reason for having them but also they should understand the possibility of post operation complications and also the psychological impact on the body.
As with all types of elective surgery, breast implantation has its drawbacks. These include:
- Adverse reactions to the anaesthetic
- Excessive bleeding
- Risk of infection
- The development of blood clots
- Capsular contracture (scar tissue begins to shrink leading to tightening and squeezing of the implant causing moderate to severe pain.)
- Implant rupturing (a split appears in the implants capsule.)
- Siliconomas (the silicone implant ruptures which in turn may spread outside the scar capsule and into the breast tissue itself.)
- Gel Bleeds (tiny silicone particles leak to the surface of the breast implant. This can happen even without the implant rupturing.)
- Scarring (natural scarring turns lumpy or thick or is painful to touch.)
- Creasing or folds (breast implants can affect the appearance of the skin on the breast such as abnormal creases, kinks, folds or ripples. However, this mainly occurs in women who have very small breasts prior to surgery.)
If you have had breast implantation surgery and are concerned about your current implants what are the signs of rupture?
A silicon implant ruptures when it splits or tears. The following are some of the signs of rupture and if you experience any of them you should seek medical help immediately:
- Severe pain in the breast(s)
- An intense burning sensation in the breast(s)
- Unusual or unexpected excessive swelling in or around the breast(s)
- Deflated breast(s)
- Smelly or coloured discharge from the wound
- Temperature above 380C or 100.40F
- Any unexpected lumps or aches which cause concern or pain.
Should any of these symptoms occur, contact your GP or surgeon immediately.
With these disadvantages outweighing the possible advantages, we have to understand the perceived importance of women’s breast size in society today.
Breast implantation maybe be undertaken in order to improve an individual’s self-esteem. The individual might feel that by having a breast implant, the world will view her differently. Studies have shown however that this is not necessarily the case.
For women who have had a mastectomy, breast implants can help them return to life. Some people even believe that implant surgery gives them a positive attitude in their fight against cancer.
We all want to look and feel our best, but it is very important to have a healthy self-image prior to the procedure. With this in mind, our advice is that if you are considering breast enlargement surgery do not jump into it without considering other possibilities such as using prosthesis (an artificial breast). Speak to women who have been through the procedure and get their advice. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you feel good with yourself because of who you are not because of what you have.