FAQ About Breast Implants

What is silicone?

Silicone is derived from silicon, a semi-metallic or metal-like element that in nature combines with oxygen to form silicon dioxide, or silica. Beach sand, crystals, and quartz are silica. Silica is the most common substance on earth. Heating silica with carbon at a high temperature can produce silicon. Further processing can convert the silicon into a long chemical chain, or polymer, called silicone – which can be a liquid, a gel, or a rubbery substance. Various silicones are used in lubricants and oils, as well as in silicone rubber. Silicone can be found in many common household items, such as polishes, suntan and hand lotion, antiperspirants, soaps, processed foods, waterproof coatings, and chewing gum.

Are silicone implants safe?

Special studies have been done and have determined that much higher levels of silicone have been found in cows‘ milk and commercially available infant formula than are found in the breast milk of women with implants. The Institute of Medicine concluded that „There is no evidence that silicone implants are responsible for any major diseases of the whole body. Women are exposed to silicone constantly in their daily lives.“  For more information regarding the safety of silicone please refer to the Institute of Medicine Report (IOM) at: www.nap.edu.

What is capsular contracture?

The scar tissue or capsule that normally forms around the implant may tighten and squeeze the implant and is called capsular contracture. Capsular contracture is more common following infection, hematoma, and seroma. Is is also more common with subglandular placement. Symptoms range from firmness and mild discomfort, to pain, distortion, palpability of the implant, and/or displacement of the implant. Additional surgery is needed in cases where pain and/or firmness is severe. This surgery ranges from removal of the implant capsule tissue to removal and possibly replacement of the implant itself. Capsular contracture may happen again after these additional surgeries. You should be aware that closed capsulotomy, the practise of forcible squeezing or pressing on the fibrous capsule around the implant to break the scar capsule, is not recommended, as this may result in breakage of the implant.

Why does the body form a capsule around the implant?

As a natural reaction to any device placed in the body, scar tissue will form around the breast implant surface creating a capsule.   

Do implants influence the occurence of breast cancer?

No studies have ever shown this to be a concern for humans. There is no evidence that implants cause cancer.

How do breast implants affect mammography?

Breast implants may interfere with finding breast cancer during mammography and may make mammography more difficult. It is important that you tell your mammography technologist that you have an implant before the procedure. Special displacement techniques and additional views may be required. Discuss any family history of breast cancer with your doctor.

Is it possible to get a silicone allergy?

It is possible for anyone to develop an allergy to almost any substance on earth, however silicone allergies are very rare. We are all exposed to silicone in our environment everyday. It is found in many household items, such as polishes, suntan and hand lotion, antiperspirants, soaps, processed foods, waterproof coatings, and chewing gum.

What is the average life expectancy of an implant?

Implants are not lifetime devices; therefore it is likely that they may need to be replaced sometime in your life. The time period varies from woman to woman. Some women need replacement surgery in only a few years while others may go 10 – 20 years. There are several different reasons why a woman might need replacement surgery.  Sometimes it is matter of choice, such as a size change or an implant style change, and sometimes removal and replacement is necessary because of a complication, such as deflation, or shifting of the implant.

Can I go to a tanning salon or sunbathe if I have implants?

Tanning at salons or sunbathing will not hurt the implant but may make the scars worse. You should avoid getting sun or tanning rays on the incisions for at least one year after surgery as tanning rays will turn the incisions dark permanently. The implant may feel warm and may take longer to cool down than your body.

When can I fly and/or scuba dive?

Many women scuba dive and fly in airplanes with implants. There may be slight expansion and contraction of the shell with changes in pressure. This may result in a small amount of air bubbles in the implant. With gel implants as with saline filled implants you may feel of hear fluid sounds (gurgling). This should correct itself within 24 – 48 hours.

When can I wear an under wire bra again?

Most doctors ask that women wait 3 months before wearing under wire bras after implant surgery. Your body will be forming scar tissue around the implant for 3 months. During this time the pressure of the wires could cause the scar tissue to form in such a way that an indentation from the wires could become permanent. After this initial healing time, under wire bras should be worn intermittently to avoid permanent indentation.

Will my breasts still move like normal breasts?

This depends upon multiple factors, such as the type of implant you receive, the pocket dissection, the way your body holds the implant and whether or not there is any degree of capsular contracture. It is possible for many women to have breast implants that are soft and move nicely, while other women have results that are firmer with an implant more fixed in position.

Will getting implants cause stretch marks on my breasts?

Insertion of implants can cause stretch marks but rarely does. If you are concerned, go for a smaller size implant to minimize the stretching of the skin.

What effect does smoking have on the healing process after surgery?

Smoking causes the blood vessels to constrict, reducing the blood supply and the oxygen carried by the blood to surgical area. The tissues need this blood supply and the oxygen that the blood carries in order to heal. When the blood supply is reduced the tissues heal more slowly. Different doctors have different time frames for patients to refrain from smoking before and after surgery.

It is recommended to stop or considerably reduce smoking two weeks before the operation.

Will I lose nipple sensation?

There can be changes in nipple sensation after implant surgery. Feeling in the nipple and breast can increase or decrease. The range of changes varies from no feeling to intense feeling and can be temporary or permanent.

Should I be at my ideal weight before I have a breast implant procedure?

You should be close to your ideal weight. A significant loss of weight after receiving breast implants could alter the results in a manner that is not satisfactory to you. There could be some ptosis (drooping) and a reduction in size. A significant gain in weight could cause an increase in breast size.

I am over 50 years old. Am I too old to get breast implants?

General good health is important, not age.

What will happen during pregnancy?

Every woman is an individual and therefore has different results whether before a pregnancy or after. Your breasts will enlarge and will go through all the usual changes associated with pregnancy. The amount of enlargement will vary from woman to woman and the size of the implants will factor into this as well.

Can I still breast-feed?

Many women with breast implants have successfully breast fed their babies. Current studies indicate that women with breast implants do not have any higher levels of silicone in their milk than women without breast implants. Breast implants can, however, interfere with the ability of some women to breast-feed. The peri-areola incision site is more likely to effect this ability. Some women experience mastitis, inflammation in the breast ducts, during this time, which can also cause capsular contracture. Taking antibiotics when symptoms first appear may minimize the potential for this problem. You should always report signs of inflammation to your physician.  




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