The case for breast enhancement with silicone implants recently took an interesting spin. According to a new report by the FDA, 20% of women who undergo the procedure to increase breast size, and half of women who get implants for breast reconstruction will have them removed within ten years.
This comes as no surprise to plastic surgeons, who argue that the women who undergo the procedure know the risks involved and that implants aren’t permanent. The longer a woman has silicone breast implants, the more likely she is to experience complications.
But opponents to breast enhancement with silicone implants point to a list of complications that women experience with the procedure, including contracture (hardening of the breasts), reoperation, and implant removal. Other common issues include rupture, wrinkling, asymmetry, scarring and pain.
The new FDA report shows that complications tend to cluster around the breast, and fortunately, show no evidence of connective tissue problems, like autoimmune disease and cancer.
But the study highlights safety concerns related to breast implants and, at at 20% removal rate, has raised more than a few eyebrows.
In 1992, the FDA removed silicone breast implants from the market, in response to increasing concerns about health risks from silicone leakage and rupture. The ban remained active until 2006, when a culmination of 14 years of research found no evidence of systemic diseases and silicone breast implants.
The FDA approved two new silicone breast implants, also in 2006, made by Allergan and Mentor, on the condition that both companies conduct six long-term studies to observe the health of the women who underwent the procedure.
The information in the new FDA report consists of results from the two studies and from ongoing studies conducted by the agency on breast implants and their complications.
The report comes at a time when silicone breast implants and reconstructive surgeries are rising in popularity. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, almost 300,000 American women underwent the procedure in 2010. The number of breast implants in the United States has risen by 40% over the past decade.
Breast reconstruction, usually done with silicone breast implants, has also risen, by 18%, over the past ten years.
According to the study, survival of the implants is influenced by the age of the patient. Younger women are more likely to have them replaced, if for the simple reason that they’ll probably live longer than a woman who gets breast implants later in life.
Proponents of silicone breast implants take issue with the FDA’s calculation of the 20% removal rate. The FDA clumps personal choice for removal together with women who had their implants removed for medical reasons like radiation therapy or a mastectomy. While a number of women had their implants removed due to complications like scarring and rupture, some surgeons argue that the FDA’s decision to factor in elective removal pushes the rate higher than it would otherwise be.
Opponents say that silicone breast implants, and the less popular saline implants, might increase risk of a rare form of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and that women who undergo the procedure have often endured childhood trauma, are more likely to have low self-esteem and are almost three times more likely to commit suicide than women who have not undergone the procedure.
Breast enhancement with implants comes with a stigma that many women would prefer to avoid. While breast implants produce noticeable results and can often lift confidence and boost feelings of sex appeal, newer alternatives to breast implants, like natural breast enhancement, which reduces sagging and shape of breasts with natural ingredients, appear to be safer and less controversial.
Nonetheless, the number of breast implant procedures is surging, and if the new study holds merit, so will the follow-up surgeries that often accompany this controversial, yet popular method of breast enhancement.