Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
Today my blog post is about raising awareness for Breast Implant Illness. One in 26 women have breast implants through reconstructive or cosmetic surgery, so chances are good one of you reading this has them. If you see your symptoms here, seek a doctor familiar with this diagnosis.
I thought about getting breast implants twice, once, when I was very young and could not afford them, and again on my fortieth birthday—when I could. Both times, I dodged a bullet.
I decided against them for the simple reason that it’s an expensive surgical procedure and I am a coward. No matter how much I wanted a bigger bust, I did not want it enough to put unnecessary foreign objects in my body while under anesthesia.
Excluding reconstructive surgery, surgeons have performed 4,798,349 implant procedures since 1997. Each year, over 550,000 women go under the knife for a new set of boobs.
Breast augmentation is the #1 surgical procedure among women. Implant removal ranks 10th. Breast Implant Illness, or BII, describes the negative side effects caused by implants.
What is Breast Implant Illness?
Breast implant illness is a new term for any adverse health condition associated with surgical breast augmentation. It is gaining momentum as a credible illness, but no national database exists for statistics. Attention is growing as women come forward in the digital world to raise awareness and document their symptoms.
Using social media women form groups to share stories and symptoms of declining health they believe is associated with their breast implants. The numbers are staggering and steadily rising, including a Facebook group with over 80,000 members.
One of the main diagnostic challenges of Breast Implant Illness is that it’s a silent disease. It can manifest itself as a laundry list of symptoms associated with other illnesses, making it difficult to correlate the evidence.
BII symptoms can start immediately after surgery or appear five to ten years later. For this reason, many doctors do not take them seriously.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Many women have no idea that breast Implants are the cause of their suffering. Doctors misdiagnose them; treating them for diseases with similar symptoms, repeatedly telling them breast implants are not the cause. Mainstream medical science supports them.
Without a specific diagnosis, women are beginning to focus on implants as the cause. The majority see their symptoms disappear once the implants are removed.
There is no specific test to confirm BII and many medical professionals swear it does not exist.
“There is no scientific research published in any credible medical journal that identifies a link between breast implants and any other generalized symptoms as described by some women online,” says Daniel Maman, M.D., a Harvard fellowship-trained and board-certified plastic surgeon.
“There are more people walking around with breast implants than any other medical device, including cardiac pacemakers, so if breast implant illness’ was a cause for concern, we’d know about it already.”
They said the same things about asbestos and lead paint. Sometimes medical arrogance gets in the way of compassionate care and a diagnosis.
Every symptom (including exhaustion, fatigue, brain fog, muscle aches, hair loss, recurring infections, rashes, and thyroid disease), is also a symptom caused by other diseases. Autoimmune diseases, connective tissue disease, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and depression, to name a few, are real illnesses that share the symptoms of BII.
Hidden Risks of Breast Implant Illness
According to the FDA, arsenic, copper, lead, mercury, tin, and platinum appear in all Mentor implants (a common brand). Implants also contain other chemicals, heavy metals, and synthetic materials and manufacturers add ingredients as new implants come to market.
Even if the implants don’t rupture, silicone and metals can leach into the body. Saline implants can grow mold and mildew. All implants, regardless of the brand, cause an inflammatory response in the body, as it reacts to a foreign object.
The FDA released an official statement linking breast implants to an increased risk of a rare form of cancer. The cancer, known as BIA-ALCL is a type of lymphoma with a proven association between this particular cancer and all implants, regardless of type.
As of September 30, 2018, there are 660 reported cases involving breast implants and BIA-ALCL since the specific diagnosis began in 2015.
On May 2 2019, the FDA finally issued a statement acknowledging breast implant illness and the systemic symptoms caused by silicone.
BII: A Silent Killer
Implants are not a new procedure. The first ones, announced in the 1960s as reconstructive prosthetics, were both silicone and saline. Though advertised as safe, the reality is they were full of risks and safety concerns.
Back in the ’70s, (when I first considered them) the FDA ruled a known-carcinogen was present in the chemicals of the implants, which could lead to breast cancer. However, this was not enough to discontinue that model or mandate physicians explain the risk to patients. It was more than enough evidence for me to decide against a vanity-driven surgical procedure.
The FDA banned silicone breast implants in 1992, due to health concerns. In 2006, they lifted the ban, agreeing to conduct ongoing studies of women with silicone implants to monitor their long-term safety. Women reporting their implants were causing health issues found themselves dismissed from the study entirely.
Medical science only goes so far. Women must listen to their bodies and be their own advocates when it comes to their health. Because the symptoms mirror multiple medical diagnoses, it is important to find a physician with an open mind.
The National Center for Health Research compiled a very comprehensive article examining all existing studies around breast implant safety, as well as the complaints of women dealing with symptoms after receiving implants. This link contains a list of resources.
Please share this information—you never know who might read it, see their symptoms described, and be encouraged to seek medical attention.