What is the Current, Scientific Understanding of Breast Implant Illness?

April 11, 2019


breast implant illness patient

breast implant illness patientBreast augmentation consistently ranks among the most performed cosmetic surgeries worldwide. The vast majority of patients who have this elective surgery have problem-free procedures which also produce outstanding results, often surpassing the client’s expectations. The popularity of these procedures is no surprise. Few aspects of a woman’s body convey her femininity and sense of identity as her breasts, and breast augmentations have been performed by surgeons for decades, making them among the most well-understood cosmetic procedures offered.

While the popularity of these procedures continues to grow, so too, do reports of symptoms by women who have had breast implant surgery. Symptoms associated with “breast implant illness,” as it has been called, have raised concerns about the safety of certain types of implants, causing women to wonder whether they should delay a planned procedure or consider breast implant removal if they have already had one. The most pressing concern among women are reports of a rare type of cancer (called anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or ALCL) associated with textured breast implants.

While the relationship between silicone breast implants and ALCL is becoming better understood, we have yet to fully predict who is most at risk and what specific risk factors foretell who will develop the disease. There are some things we do know. ALCL is associated with textured implants and almost exclusively with a particular type of texturing used a one of the three breast implant manufacturers in the United States. As new information becomes available, one of the most important things both surgeons and patients can do in responding to these concerns is to examine the facts and case study evidence carefully rather than allowing fear or misinformation to drive their decision making. By doing so, patients, guided by their surgeons, can make informed decisions which will best suit their circumstances, preserve their safety and achieve their desired outcomes today.

What is meant by “breast implant illness?”

Breast implant illness is a broad term which refers to a number of individual illnesses that women believe are associated with their breast implants. Illnesses which are frequently categorized underneath this blanket term include:

  • Anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) — a rare cancer of immune system cells
  • Capsular contracture — firm scar tissue which forms around an implant after breast pocket placement
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Cognitive issues
  • Muscle pain around the implants

It is believed that breast implants may contribute to or cause these illnesses through a number of pathways which include:

  • Breast implant breakage or rupture
  • Breast implant micro-leakage (release of small amounts of silicone outside the shell)
  • Silicone leakage to the lymphatic system

While the symptoms that women report are real and should be taken seriously by their doctors, the presence of symptoms in women who have breast implants does not necessarily prove or establish a link between these symptoms and the implants themselves.

What is ALCL?

Among the most concerning of the illnesses potentially associated with breast implants is ALCL, or anaplastic large cell lymphoma. ALCL is a rare form of cancer that affects the cells of the immune system; however, this cancer is not a form of breast cancer since it does not affect breast tissues even though it forms near breast implants. The most common finding in a woman who has ALCL is the development of a seroma, a pocket of clear fluid which has formed between the implant and the scar tissue surrounding the implant. However, the disease can present with a lump in the breast. Symptoms like these do not confirm an ALCL diagnosis, however; any changes in the size of your breasts or the development of a lump should always be reported to your surgeon.

Who is at risk for ALCL, and is it treatable?

The factor common to all ALCL diagnoses to date is the use of texture breast implants, regardless of whether those shells are filled with a saline solution or silicone gel. Two encouraging facts: if a woman has her textured implants replaced with smooth implants, the risks for ALCL can be significantly reduced or even eliminated. Second, for women who have had a breast augmentation using textured implants, there is no need for action unless there are problems; and if ALCL is diagnosed, it is typically highly treatable through surgery alone if caught early.

What has been the FDA’s response to women’s reports of breast implant illness symptoms?

Today, the FDA recognizes the need for more research to vet these claims before conclusions can be drawn and recommendations to women can be made with confidence. As recently as March 2019, the FDA has said that it is too soon to ban silicone breasts implants which may have a link to ALCL due to a lack of scientific, independently-verified information. At the same time, the FDA has issued warning letters to two major breast implant manufacturers for “failure to comply with their requirements, under their premarket approval orders, to conduct post-approval studies to assess the long-term safety and risks of their silicone gel-filled breast implants.” These studies, which manufacturers must undertake to be in regulatory compliance, should soon provide additional, valuable information which can be used to assess the safety of saline breast implants and the course women interested in having them should take. Meanwhile, patients should rely on the expertise and experiences of their surgeons to guide them through their decision-making.

For trusted, fact-based advice, visit Dr. Kahlil Andrews of Dr. Andrews Plastic Surgery

The decision whether or not to have breast augmentation can be a daunting one for many women because of the number of choices presented to a woman considering the procedure. The potential risks of breast augmentation further complicate this choice, but these factors should not deter women considering surgery from having a consultation or their procedure. The bottom line is that the vast majority of surgeries pose minimal risk, and these risks can be further lowered through strategic choices which can be made in consultation with their surgeon. The high-quality results that most women enjoy also have a priceless effect on their sense-of-self and confidence.

If you still have questions about having a breast augmentation or the safety of the procedure, schedule an in-person consultation with Dr. Andrews in Cedar Rapids and Coralville, Iowa today by calling 319-382-8230. If you are anxious about scheduling a consultation or looking for a trusted expert to answer your questions in a low-pressure environment, Dr. Andrews hosts complimentary breast augmentation seminars at his Coralville office. Stay tuned for the latest dates. We look forward to answering all of your questions and are committed to helping women achieve their ideal outcome safely.

June 26th, 2013

Dr. Andrews is an artist. His academic credentials are second to none. You can see that sensibility in every aspect of his practice, and his life. His outcomes are exceptional, and there isn’t a surgeon anywhere that I trust more.*
2015-02-10T19:25:22-05:00
Dr. Andrews is an artist. His academic credentials are second to none. You can see that sensibility in every aspect of his practice, and his life. His outcomes are exceptional, and there isn’t a surgeon anywhere that I trust more.*

May 27th, 2013

I am beyond happy with my results. I had extra skin hanging from my abdomen after gaining weight from pregnancies. Dr. Andrews was compassionate and understanding about how this affected me and my self-esteem.*
2015-02-10T19:25:46-05:00
I am beyond happy with my results. I had extra skin hanging from my abdomen after gaining weight from pregnancies. Dr. Andrews was compassionate and understanding about how this affected me and my self-esteem.*

May 27th, 2013

I can now wear bikinis! I continue to work out and can finally see the results of my hard work. Thank you Dr. Andrews – a California gem in the midwest!*
2015-02-10T19:26:11-05:00
I can now wear bikinis! I continue to work out and can finally see the results of my hard work. Thank you Dr. Andrews – a California gem in the midwest!*

June 1st, 2013

Dr. Andrews is one of the best plastic surgeons I’ve worked with! His patients are very pleased with their results. I highly recommend him!*
2015-02-10T19:26:35-05:00
Dr. Andrews is one of the best plastic surgeons I’ve worked with! His patients are very pleased with their results. I highly recommend him!*

Jan 24th, 2013

Dr Andrews was wonderful!! Great Guy… awesome job on my reconstruction!!*
2015-02-10T19:26:55-05:00
Dr Andrews was wonderful!! Great Guy… awesome job on my reconstruction!!*

Nov 2nd, 2012

I had suffered debilitating Hidradenitis. He gave me the ability to have a normal life again. My scars look amazing and he was able to close with the most beautiful lines! He was such a caring doctor who is so gifted. I hope to follow his practice wherever he may go!*
2015-02-10T19:27:28-05:00
I had suffered debilitating Hidradenitis. He gave me the ability to have a normal life again. My scars look amazing and he was able to close with the most beautiful lines! He was such a caring doctor who is so gifted. I hope to follow his practice wherever he may go!*

Oct 29th, 2012

Dr. Andrews was the absolute best doctor for me - very informative, sensitive, and caring with just the right amount of humor during the appointments.*
2015-02-10T19:27:54-05:00
Dr. Andrews was the absolute best doctor for me - very informative, sensitive, and caring with just the right amount of humor during the appointments.*

Extraordinary doctor

Before saying that you are an extraordinary doctor, I want to tell you that you are an extraordinary human being. Thanks for showing me so much care and concern.*
2015-03-30T12:00:04-05:00
Before saying that you are an extraordinary doctor, I want to tell you that you are an extraordinary human being. Thanks for showing me so much care and concern.*

You Rock!!

I wanted to write you a thank you letter because I would never be able to find the words to say how much I appreciate everything you did for me. Thanks to you I can feel normal and not always worry if people will find out about my problem. I can’t even begin to say thank you enough or to show my gratitude. You’re an amazing person, wonderful doctor, and my hero. All in all, you ROCK!!!*
2015-03-30T12:00:42-05:00
I wanted to write you a thank you letter because I would never be able to find the words to say how much I appreciate everything you did for me. Thanks to you I can feel normal and not always worry if people will find out about my problem. I can’t even begin to say thank you enough or to show my gratitude. You’re an amazing person, wonderful doctor, and my hero. All in all, you ROCK!!!*

You all are the best!

Thank you so much for ALL of your help in my recovery thru “sometimes emotional” journey with my cancer. You all were always professional and took the time with my long list of questions. I can n0t thank you enough! Easter is my favorite time of the year and I pray God will continue to strengthen your gift and skills in healing because you all are the best!*
2015-03-30T12:02:02-05:00
Thank you so much for ALL of your help in my recovery thru “sometimes emotional” journey with my cancer. You all were always professional and took the time with my long list of questions. I can n0t thank you enough! Easter is my favorite time of the year and I pray God will continue to strengthen your gift and skills in healing because you all are the best!*

Amazing!

I’m ecstatic with my new body. It is PERFECT! I can’t even put in wordshow we feel, You are so compassionate unlike any Doctor I’ve met. I realize I’ve been a needy patient and you handled me well. You’ve gone above and beyond with me after hours for medications and issues. Also more quotes than necessary, but you did it! Your work ad attentiveness to my expectations I can’t say enough!! Now to pu the finale pictures in your gallery to show how complete I am now! You are AMAZING! Thank You! It’s been a very long, hard journey! Now to live life with the new ME!*
2015-03-30T12:02:20-05:00
I’m ecstatic with my new body. It is PERFECT! I can’t even put in wordshow we feel, You are so compassionate unlike any Doctor I’ve met. I realize I’ve been a needy patient and you handled me well. You’ve gone above and beyond with me after hours for medications and issues. Also more quotes than necessary, but you did it! Your work ad attentiveness to my expectations I can’t say enough!! Now to pu the finale pictures in your gallery to show how complete I am now! You are AMAZING! Thank You! It’s been a very long, hard journey! Now to live life with the new ME!*

With appreciation

With appreciation for putting me back together!*
2015-03-30T12:02:40-05:00
With appreciation for putting me back together!*

I am forever grateful

I consider myself blessed to be under your care as I navigated the stormy sea of breast cancer diagnosis, surgery, reconstruction, and recovery. I cannot thank you enough and am so pleased with the results! You have all been wonderful, and I will miss seeing you even though I am thrilled to be healed and moving on! The impact you have on patients who are scared and overwhelmed cannot be overstated...and I am forever grateful.*
2015-03-30T12:03:02-05:00
I consider myself blessed to be under your care as I navigated the stormy sea of breast cancer diagnosis, surgery, reconstruction, and recovery. I cannot thank you enough and am so pleased with the results! You have all been wonderful, and I will miss seeing you even though I am thrilled to be healed and moving on! The impact you have on patients who are scared and overwhelmed cannot be overstated...and I am forever grateful.*

Thank You

Thank you. For me, you are as similar as God because you created me again. It’s an amazing feeling. I feel my earlier life back again. Once again thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.*
2015-03-30T12:03:24-05:00
Thank you. For me, you are as similar as God because you created me again. It’s an amazing feeling. I feel my earlier life back again. Once again thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.*

April 12, 2016

Since my hysterectomy, sex has been extremely painful. I suffered from extreme dryness and discomfort. I had no sex drive and was no longer able to experience an orgasm. Until, recently, when a friend told me about Courtney Albritton and the ThermiVa treatment. I have had 2 of the 3 treatments and immediately experienced positive results. I am still in awe of the results I have experienced. The procedure was painless. Until ThermiVa, I had come to the realization that my sex life would no longer be what it once was pre-hysterectomy. I highly recommend this procedure.*
2016-05-05T11:40:35-05:00
Since my hysterectomy, sex has been extremely painful. I suffered from extreme dryness and discomfort. I had no sex drive and was no longer able to experience an orgasm. Until, recently, when a friend told me about Courtney Albritton and the ThermiVa treatment. I have had 2 of the 3 treatments and immediately experienced positive results. I am still in awe of the results I have experienced. The procedure was painless. Until ThermiVa, I had come to the realization that my sex life would no longer be what it once was pre-hysterectomy. I highly recommend this procedure.*

I am a patient at Dr. Andrews!

I am a patient at Dr. Andrews! I highly recommend utilizing their services. Very thorough consultations, educational and informative. They give you lots of options to fit your needs and guide you through it. Amazing staff that is highly trained with the most up to date procedures and tools. I can't say enough about Dr. Andrews and his amazing staff!*
5.0
2016-09-28T15:22:01-05:00
I am a patient at Dr. Andrews! I highly recommend utilizing their services. Very thorough consultations, educational and informative. They give you lots of options to fit your needs and guide you through it. Amazing staff that is highly trained with the most up to date procedures and tools. I can't say enough about Dr. Andrews and his amazing staff!*

January 11, 2017

Dear Dr. Andrews,
Thank you so much for all you’ve done for me and my family. You are trustworthy, kind and personable. We really appreciate you and your talent. Thank you!*
5.0
2017-01-11T13:02:59-05:00
Dear Dr. Andrews, Thank you so much for all you’ve done for me and my family. You are trustworthy, kind and personable. We really appreciate you and your talent. Thank you!*

Everything is great!!

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5.0
2017-01-22T15:30:46-05:00
Just had my surgery from Dr. Andrews and everything is great!! He is the most kindest Dr. ever!*

You change peoples’ lives!

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5.0
2017-02-24T14:28:06-05:00
You change peoples’ lives! Words cannot express how much I love my new girls! Thank you so much for giving me exactly what I wanted. You are amazing!*
5
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