Self

3 Alarming (Fact-Based) Things Anyone With Breast Implants Needs To Know

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Many millions of women have breast implants and wonder about their safety, and I'm here to shed light on what you need to know about breast implants.

Each month, another celebrity, athlete, or influencer shares a harrowing story about how she overcame health problems — but only after removing her breast implants (known as an "explant").

It can be uncomfortable, even scary, to explore breast implant safety when they’re inside your body — especially when your breasts influence how you perceive yourself.

To make matters worse, there’s a lot of conflicting information about breast implants.

Whether you want to know how long you can safely keep them or if they cause breast implant illness (BII), you want and deserve answers.

According to the Cleveland Clinic:

"Breast implant illness is a collection of symptoms that occur in people with breast implants. There isn’t an official medical diagnosis for BII. Symptoms may include fatigue, joint pain, brain fog, dry eyes and many other health concerns. Healthcare providers diagnose BII by ruling out other health conditions. Breast implant illness treatment involves removing the implants. Many people see improvement in their symptoms soon after implant removal."

Despite the premium society places on our breasts’ appearance, there is no consistent professional psychosocial support for women living with breast implants or recovering from their removal.

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Here are three important things to know when breast implants are inside your body

1. Breast implants are not lifetime devices

Over the last several decades, women were told these were “one-and-done” surgeries.

Now the FDA cautions that the longer you keep breast implants, the more likely you are to develop problems and need more surgery. You can read more in the FDA’s article “What To Know About Breast Implants.”

2. Breast implants are not problem-free devices

Previously, breast implants were marketed as “totally safe.” In 2021, the FDA placed a boxed warning (their highest safety alert) on all breast implants to alert women and surgeons that these devices carry risks of cancer, systemic symptoms (BII), other complications, and further surgeries.

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3. Breast implants are not appropriately studied devices

A discourse in epidemiology and medical device tracking is beyond the scope of this article. Though the following may be a bit dry, women with problematic breast implants can experience medical gaslighting, so you need to know that:

  • Breast implant statistics often come from studies that were funded by implant manufacturers with limited designs, sample sizes, and follow-up periods. In 2019, the FDA even issued warnings to manufacturers for failing to complete their required post-approval long-term safety studies.
  • Laboratory-based studies (and TikTok videos showing breast implants being dropped from high-rise buildings) do not model how these devices perform while aging inside your warm body.
  • The tracking of adverse events for most medical devices is challenging; tracking breast implant outcomes has been especially problematic and riddled with underreporting.

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Awareness is empowering

Believe me, I totally understand that learning these three things about breast implants — especially when they’re resting inside your body — may elicit concern, fear, or anxiety.

I know what it’s like to be in your shoes. I'm a psychotherapist who had breast implants for 12 years.

For many reasons, I removed them in 2018. That’s when I realize my body was losing its constant battle against the two foreign objects placed inside it.

When fear and anxiety begin to take a toll, take a minute to ground yourself by breathing deeply into your belly and really slowing down your exhalation.

Then remind yourself that the only thing that has changed is your awareness.

And with awareness, you’re empowered to act on your behalf.  

Understandably, many of my explant clients decry the misinformation that led them to live with aging or problematic breast implants. Some grieve the years and dollars spent trying to understand their declining health without knowing to consider their breast implants.

And countless others have told me: “I would never have got breast implants if I’d known these things.”

The latter is certainly true for me.

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What breast implant information means for you

Whether you already knew these three things or are just coming to terms with them, the real question is: What do they mean for you?

Breast implants aren't permanent

First, everyone who has breast implants must eventually replace or remove them. It’s never too soon to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for this inevitable crossroads.

This isn’t the same as prematurely coercing yourself into a decision. It’s about honoring that there’s more to this journey than physical considerations.

Keep an open mind 

Second, when your breast implants play an important part in how you view yourself, give yourself permission to see your entire experience with them.

Avoid the “all good” blinders.

You can love them and acknowledge how they holistically affect you. It’s okay to admit if they garner you unwanted attention, interfere with hugs, or strain your shoulders and neck.

And if your health declines without an obvious explanation, consider whether your body’s reaction to breast implants is playing a role.

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Consider your sources of information

Third, when you are told that a breast implant complication is “rare,” keep in mind that declaration may be drawn from poorly designed studies with conflicts of interest or massively flawed tracking of adverse events among breast implant patients.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, given that breast implants are temporary and problem-prone, it's likely that you may want or need to remove yours someday.

But social standards about how you and your breasts "ought" to appear are deeply ingrained in you when you grow up in a society where breasts "matter." 

So, I strongly recommend proactively learning how to separate yourself from social programming about women, breasts, and belonging

Liberating yourself from this inherited thinking is the only way you can bring your whole self forward, give yourself heartfelt guidance, and navigate the rest of your journey with breast implants on your terms.

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Amanda Savage Brown, Ph.D., LCSW, is the author of Busting Free, an award-winning self-help book for women before, during, and after explant. She is a licensed psychotherapist, self-acceptance coach, and explant specialist and uses Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Coaching to help adult women create meaningful lives steeped with mindful self-acceptance.

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