Breast implants were invented in Houston in 1962. Our city has been the implant capital ever since.
“More than 330,000 women a year get implants in America,” says Dr. Jessica Rose, a plastic surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.
But if you have implants or are considering them, you may have concerns.
Sharing answers to patients’ most-asked questions are Dr. Rose and Emily K. Robinson, MD, FACS, a general surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.
Q: If I have implants, can I breastfeed without harming my child?
A: There is no danger. “Research shows implants have no effect on breastfeeding,” Dr. Robinson says. “Most implants are placed beneath the chest –AKA pectoralis–muscles.”
Neither milk ducts nor nerves are harmed.
But if you’ve had a mastectomy and reconstruction, the loss of breast tissue and milk glands makes breast feeding from that side impossible.
Q: Am I at a higher risk for breast cancer, and can I get mammograms and do proper self-exams?
A: Self-exams will be unaltered. After implants are placed, most mammograms cannot view the chest wall behind the implant—about 30% of the breast. Dr. Rose recommends seeking a mammogram center that offers Eklund views. These are able to push the implant out of the way to get a better image.
If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, you may choose to rethink plans of getting augmentation, Dr. Robinson says. If you do get implants and then get cancer, “radiation can cause scar tissue around the implant to contract, which may cause uncomfortable tightness in your chest wall muscles.”
Q: Could my implants burst and hurt my health?
A: “They can, but they aren’t harmful if they do,” Dr. Rose says.
According to Dr. Rose, implants have vastly improved since their early days, when the silicone shell was thinner and filler was less cohesive.
“Early implants were more prone to rupture, and the silicone used to run out like liquid cement everywhere,” says Dr. Rose.
Fears in the 1990s that breast augmentation could lead to connective tissue autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, were proved unfounded in an Institute of Medicine study in 1999.
The latest implants contain a thick gel, earning them the nickname of “gummy bear” implants. “When they leak, the gel remains in place,” Dr. Rose says.
Still, women should have yearly follow-ups with their plastic surgeon and be checked for ruptures via MRIs, or magnetic resonance imaging that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to form images. An MRI should be three years after augmentation and then every two years after that, she says.
Q: Will I lose sensation in my breasts?
A: Numbness is temporary while your body heals post-surgery, unless you’re getting implants after a mastectomy. As part of the removal of breast tissue in cancer patients, sensory nerves may be severed, Dr. Rose says.
But if reconstruction uses tissue from your body rather than implants, nerves within the tissue can be reconnected to help restore sensitivity.
Q: Can I have natural looking implants?
“There are hundreds of available devices to choose from,” Dr. Rose says. Your doctor can help review options, including saline versus silicone or round versus the more natural tear-drop shape.
Q: What problems may I face down the road and will I need to replace my implants?
A: “If your implants aren’t bothering you or leaking, there’s no reason to replace them,” Dr. Robinson says. If you notice lumps, a decrease in size or increase in pain or numbness, alert your surgeon.
Anytime a patient gets breast augmentation, there will be some scar tissue—known as capsular contracture—around the implant, since it’s a foreign object put in the body, Dr. Rose says.
The resulting tightening could be uncomfortable or visibly distort the breast. “Frequently, though, the scars are soft and not bothersome,” Dr. Rose says.
A greater concern can be if you notice fluid buildup around your implants. According to Dr. Robinson, this could be a sign of an extremely rare cancer, called breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma. Your surgeon can aspirate the fluid and test it for the cancer.
So get checked out by your surgeon yearly—and enjoy your new curves.