The Safety of Silicone Gel Breast Augmentation

When spring just around the corner, this is the time of year when many people start thinking about their body again. Warm weather and less clothing cause some women to think about their ‘curves’.  Perhaps to the surprise of some, spring is the peak season when the greatest number of breast augmentation surgeries are done. This is a seasonal trend that is very unique to this type of cosmetic surgery.

When considering breast augmentation, most women today opt for silicone gel breast implants. Since they have become available again for human use in late 2006, they rapidly have become the preferred implant for many breast augmentations. Yet, despite FDA-approval, many patients understandably ask about their safety. Even if one was not old enough to even be aware of what transpired in the early 1990s with the previous generation of silicone breast implants, there remains some lingering concerns that are easy to find on the internet.

Since silicone gel breast implants are FDA-approved, and they would not be available if they were not, that speaks to their safety. But most do not know the extent of information that goes into that type of approval process. And because of their history, silicone gel breast implants have become the single most studied implantable device in the world. As a result, the most common questions that women may have about this type of breast implant has well known answers.

Can breast implants make me sick? In 1997, the Federal government (Department of Health and Human Services) appointed the National Academy of Science to study the likelihood of medical complications after breast implant surgery. After reviewing years of evidence and research concerning silicone gel-filled breast implants, they found that health problems such as connective tissue illnesses, cancer, and other diseases were no more common in women with breast implants than in women who had never had the surgery.

 In the 1990s, thousands of women claimed that they had become ill from their implants. Some studies around that time suggested that these health symptoms of women with implants may improve when their implants are removed. We now know conclusively that this is not true. The relationship between autoimmune diseases and breast implants is coincidental…both largely occur in women between the ages of 20 to 50…but one does not lead to the other. The FDA has even gone so far as to conclude that there is link between fibromyalgia and breast implants either.

Will breast implants cause cancer? Reviews of research and medical studies on silicone breast implants show that breast cancer is no more common in women with silicone breast implants than in those without. In fact, for reasons different than one may think, women with breast implants actually have earlier breast cancer detection. This has nothing to do with the implant per se, it is a function of breast awareness. Women with breast implants are more likely to be ‘attuned’ to their breasts and how they feel.

 Can I breast feed with breast implants? For the younger women, this is a frequent question. The issue is not whether one can physically do it, but will any harm come to the baby by doing so. The American Academy of Pediatrics concluded in 2001 that having silicone breast implants is not a contraindication to breastfeeding nor does it pose any health risks to the infant. Similarly, epidemiological investigations have not found any increased risk of health problems in children born to women with silicone breast implants.

Dr. Barry Eppley