Most women who get breast implants aren’t thinking about getting those babies replaced any time soon. But according to the British Implant Information Society, breast augmentation isn’t meant to be permanent—in fact, most modern implants are only good for 20-25 years. What? This means a woman who gets breast augmentation surgery at, say, 25 should plan to remove or replace her implants at 45 or 50. Someone who got implants as a teen (hey, it’s not uncommon in some countries) and wanted to keep up her cup size could end up having to replace the implants twice in her lifetime. All of this adds up to greater cost, and greater risk—of danger or deformity. Can we agree that this is greater reason to avoid breast implants in the first place, too?
Last week, now-defunct French company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) made headlines after medical authorities said PIP’s silicone implants were defective, and told more than 30,000 French women with the implants they should have them removed because of high rupture risk. But the risk of rupturing, though low, is present with all breast implants. And rupturing is only one potential problem. According to the FDA, most implant patients have at least one complication within three years after getting silicone or saline implants. And as many as 20 percent of women who receive breast implants for augmentation (as opposed to reconstructive surgery) have to have their implants removed within 8 to 10 years.
Of course, some of you are probably saying, ‘So what?’ If an implant leaks, ruptures or otherwise causes trouble, you just get it removed and that’s that, right? Well, not exactly. Removing implants without replacing them—especially if the implants are large—can lead to major cosmetic deformities (check out horror pictures on the FDA website here). And ‘revision’ breast surgeries (those done to replace or remove prior augmentation) can be more expensive, lengthier and more complicated than the initial surgery, because of existing scar tissue and the need to remove or adjust the original implants.
With silicone implants, there’s also the danger that neither you nor your doctor will notice a rupture right away. Some ruptures, called ‘silent ruptures,’ don’t change the way an implant looks or feels, and must be detected using an MRI scan. If you don’t catch the rupture, leaked silicone gel could cause lumps in your breast or other tissue, spread to other parts of your body (such as the chest wall, armpit or arm) and become difficult or impossible to remove.
The FDA recommends women with silicone implants get an MRI three years after the initial surgery, and every two years after that—which seems like a lot of upkeep to me. That’s a lifetime of care and precaution necessary for something that could harm or deform you. Makes small boobs not look so bad, huh?