5 Things You Might Not Know About Breast Implants

Two hands holding a saline breast implantBreast implants: some of the risks may come as a shock. Breast augmentation has become so common, that it makes most women think that it is a simple, complication-free procedure. However, this could not be farthest from the truth. It is a surgery, after all, and like any surgery you should think long and hard before you go under the knife.

Here are 5 things that you might not know about breast implants:

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1. Breast implants are not lifetime devices. The longer a woman has them, the greater the chances that she will develop complications, some of which will require more surgery.  The patient can also request additional surgeries to modify the aesthetic outcome, such as size or shape.

“The life of these devices varies according to the individual,” says Gretchen Burns, a nurse consultant at FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH).  “All women with implants will face additional surgeries—no one can tell them when.” While a few women have kept their original implants for 20-30 years, “that is not the common experience.”

2. The initial bruising and swelling can last a few weeks or a few months. Most of your swelling (about 80 percent) should go away after the first two weeks. The last 20 percent of the swelling and bruising can take two to four months to completely disappear. In the last stages of bruising, your bruises will fade to yellow.

3. It is going to be ridiculously expensive. Budget out more than one surgery; the doctor may not get it right the first time, or there may be a complication after a few weeks. Also, you may want the implants removed someday, which is an additional cost. Insurance does not cover these costs. In addition, if you are not on a group insurance plan from your job and you are seeking individual insurance coverage post-surgery, you are probably going to find yourself in a pinch. Health insurance companies look at silicone breast implants as a “pre-existing” condition, and they will put you in the high-risk pool, thereby tripling the cost of your insurance.

4. They make it harder to spot breast cancer (and may rupture during a mammogram). Silicone and saline implants make it more difficult to detect cancer during routine mammograms. Some studies estimate that up to 30 percent of tumors are missed in women with artificially enhanced cleavage. Of course, if you have implants, this is not an excuse to skip mammograms altogether. To up your chances of effective detection, find a doctor or facility that has experience with imaging women with augmented breasts.

Also, research by the National Cancer Institute has found that women with breast augmentation are more likely to die of brain cancer or lung cancer compared to other plastic surgery patients.

5. The larger your implant, the worse your breast will look over time. A larger implant will stretch your tissues over time and will cause more tissue-thinning and sagging than a smaller implant. Your tissues do not improve with age, and they will be less able to support the additional weight of any implant, especially a larger implant.

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