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Breast implant illness (BII)

In the US, each year more than 400,000 women undergo breast implant surgery with 25% for reconstruction and 75% for healthy breasts. Breast implants, independent of type, are foreign bodies and as such, may cause multiple health issues. They can leak, get colonized with bacteria that develop biofilms around them, and be sources of mold toxicity. The implants can literally become "toxic bags".

Even though large randomized studies are lacking, case reports are piling up on this topic. More and more women are speaking up in an effort to make the disease be widely known and warn those who go into surgery without knowing the risks.

Possible risks of breast implants include:

· Capsular contracture (painful tightening of scar tissue around the implant)

· Breakage

· Micro-leakage

· Silicone leakage to the lymphatic system

· Interference with accuracy of mammography

· Immune disorders

· Cancer

What kind of symptoms do patients have with implants?

· Fatigue

· Chest pain, shortness of breath, breast pain

· Memory and concentration problems, brain fog

· Anxiety, depression

· Joint and muscle pain

· GI problems, unexplained bloating, weight gain

· Hair loss

· Thyroid problems

· Dry eyes and mouth, etc

What is BIA-ALCL?

BIA-ALCL is known as Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma. It is a rare and treatable type of lymphoma that can develop around breast implants. BIA-ALCL occurs most frequently in patients who have breast implants with textured surfaces. This is a cancer of the immune system, not a type of breast cancer.

How do you diagnose BII?

There is no direct testing for BII but you can get tested for autoimmune markers, thyroid and adrenal hormone panel, nutrient deficiencies, MTHFR mutations, mold toxicity, Lyme disease, heavy metals etc which could show indirect effects of the implants on your health. A breast MRI would show if there is leakage. In my office, I can do the testing for you and order your MRI.

What’s the best treatment for Breast Implant Illness?

Consult with an experienced plastic surgeon who knows how to perform an “en bloc capsulectomy”, meaning removing the implant and capsule in one piece. This approach prevents silicone, biofilm (colonies of bacteria that stick to each other and the implant), or other substances that are within the capsule from escaping into the body. Fully removing the scar tissue capsules also may lower the risk that fluid will collect in that area after the surgery. Insurance may cover costs for explant surgery.

In small studies, 69-89% had significant symptom improvement after breast implant removal.

An emerging alternative to breast implants is autologous fat transfer (no long term data available). It's best to consult with an expert plastic surgeon who specializes in explant surgery. The support groups mentioned below have lists with names of the most renowned surgeons.

For further information and resources, check out the links below.


Facebook pages:

Breast implant illness and healing (surgeon list available once active member of the group)

Breast implant victim advocacy


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