There has long been a question of whether breast implants could cause breast cancer or other autoimmune reactions, particularly after a rupture where some of the silicone gel entered the breast pocket. That led the FDA to place a 14-year ban on silicone breast implants from 1992 to 2006 when the ban was lifted. The 14-year period allowed extensive research to be done on silicone implants. The FDA found no link between breast cancer or concerning health risks and allowed silicone implants back on the market. Since that time there are two kinds of breast implant issues that have come to light, although the confirmed cases are extremely low. These are called “breast implant-associated large-cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL)” and “breast implant illness (BII).” BIA-ALCL has been definitively proven to be directly related to breast implants. BII is theoretical at this point and hasn’t been recognized by the medical community as a definitive diagnosis, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Neither of these issues has changed the FDA’s position on breast implants at the time of this writing, although these issues are being carefully studied. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR THE READER TO UNDERSTAND THAT ALTHOUGH BOTH BII AND BIA-ALCL ARE DISCUSSED IN THIS ARTICLE, THEY ARE DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT CONDITIONS. BIA-ALCL is a type of cancer, BII is not a cancerous condition.
What is Breast Implant Illness?
Breast implant illness (BII) involves a variety of autoimmune issues. Unlike BIA-ALCL, there are not any specific numbers available, as the symptoms can be due to different conditions and haven’t shown direct links to implants. Plus, it seems that BII occurs more often in women with personal or family histories of autoimmune conditions. Symptoms of BII include a variety of symptoms including; chronic fatigue, fevers, brain fog, visual disturbance, and joint pain. Whether these symptoms can be attributed to breast implants is still not entirely known. There are anecdotal reports of many women who have had implants removed who report improvements of symptoms. Alternatively, there are many reports where implants were removed without a change in symptoms. There are well-designed studies looking at exactly this and we should start to have more information in 2021. Many patients with concerns about breast implant illness pursue breast implant removal.
How is Breast Implant Illness diagnosed?
Unfortunately, the current diagnostic test for BII is to remove implants after all other causes of illness have been exhausted. BII is currently a disease of exclusion. It is important that patients seek out other sources of their symptoms under the direction of their physician. Other disorders such as autoimmune disorders, endocrine disorders and oncologic disorders are often found as the true source of symptoms during critical evaluation. There is no protocol for BII, as the symptoms are related to those with various autoimmune conditions. How is BII Treated?
How is Breast Implant Illness treated?
After excluding other conditions as a source for illness, treatment of BII involves removing the breast implant. There is great controversy as to whether the implant capsule should be removed as well. Those in support of capsule removal state that there could be a source of inflammation within the capsule that would be left behind with simple implant removal. There are currently no studies to support capsulectomy as a part of BII treatment but that is not to say there won’t be in the future. Currently, Dr. Yates uses a common-sense approach to the capsule with the recommendation of removal for specific indications only. Removing a healthy, thin, fragile capsule in a submuscular position is often futile and generally would cause more harm than potential good.
Can you prevent Breast Implant Illness?
There isn’t enough data on BII to make any recommendations. Of course, if you are concerned about possible risks with breast implants, you may choose they are not right for you. An alternative method of breast augmentation that you may consider is breast fat transfer.
I’ve heard about these potential illnesses and am reconsidering getting Breast Implants. What are my Breast Enhancement options?
An alternative form of breast augmentation that isn’t associated with either of these conditions is breast fat transfer. This certainly has limitations in regards to the size of augmentation but is a “natural” alternative.