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Introduction 

Breast implant surgery – also called breast augmentation or enlargement – is the most common type of cosmetic surgerycarried out in the UK.

It's estimated more than 30,000 such procedures are carried out in the UK every year. Most of these are carried out privately, with fewer than 4,500 operations to fit breast implants carried out on the  during 2012-13.

Why are breast implants used?

Breast implants can be used for two purposes:

  • reconstructive – to reconstruct the breast mound after amastectomy (the surgical removal of the breast, often used to treatbreast cancer)
  • cosmetic – to enhance the size and shape of the breast

Generally, breast implants used for purely cosmetic reasons are not available on the  and need to be paid for privately.

In the UK, the average cost of private breast implant surgery is around £3,500-5,000, but you will also have to take into consideration the cost of any consultations or follow-up care that may be needed.

 

Deciding to have breast implants

The decision to have breast implants should be an informed one that takes into account the potential health risks and financial costs.

If you are considering having breast implants, it's a good idea to speak to your GP and a cosmetic surgeon beforehand about why you want them, your expectations of surgery, the procedure itself, and the potential risks.

Types of breast implants

Breast implants are artificial (prosthetic) implants. In the UK, two types of breast implants are commonly used:

  • silicone gel implants – available as a liquid, a gel, or a solid form similar to plastic
  • saline (sterile salt water) implants

Each type has associated advantages and disadvantages, although most people choose to use implants filled with silicone. 

Breast implants generally have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years, after which they may need to be replaced.

Breast implant surgery

Breast implant surgery is usually carried out under general anaesthetic, and takes between 60 and 90 minutes.

During the operation, a cut (incision) will be made in the skin next to the treated breast(s). Your surgeon will discuss with you the location of the incisions beforehand so you're aware of where the scars will be.  

After the incision, the implant is positioned between your breast tissue and chest muscle, or behind your chest muscle. Once the implants are in place, the incision is stitched and covered with a dressing.

You'll usually be able to go home the same day you have the operation, or you may need to stay in hospital overnight. When you return home, you'll need to take things easy at first, before gradually returning to most of your normal activities within the next four to six weeks.

You may be worried your breasts look unnatural at first, but this is normal and in most cases temporary. Your breasts will usually start to look and feel better within a few months.

Possible complications

If you are contemplating having breast implants, you should make sure you are aware of the potential risks.

Some of the problems that can occur as a result of having breast implants fitted include:

  • infection or bleeding after surgery
  • scarring
  • the shrinkage of scar tissue around the implant (capsular contracture)
  • the implant splitting (rupturing)
  • the implant becoming creased or folded
  • temporary or permanent changes to nipple sensation

In some cases, further surgery may be needed to treat problems that develop..

 

Worries over PIP implants

French-made PIP implants were banned in 2010 after it was revealed they contained industrial silicone rather than medical-grade fillers and that they are far more likely to rupture (split).

About 47,000 women in the UK are believed to have had the implants, with the majority of operations performed for cosmetic reasons through private clinics.

The  will remove PIP implants without charge, whether they were fitted on the  or privately. Normally, the  won't replace PIP implants with another brand unless they were originally fitted on the 

 

 

 

 

Is cosmetic surgery right for you?

Ten questions to ask yourself if you're considering cosmetic surgery

 

Why breast implants are used 

Breast implants can be used to increase breast size, improve breast shape and make breasts more even in size.

There are a number of reasons why you may want breast implants. For example:

  • you may be unhappy about the size, shape or unevenness of your breasts – possibly as a result of developmental problems
  • your breasts have changed in appearance – for example, with age, weight loss, or after having children
  • you are having, or have had, surgery to remove one or both breasts (mastectomy)

There is no specific medical advantage to having breast implants in cases such as these, but they can have positive psychological effects. For example, if a woman feels her breasts are unwomanly or inadequate, having breast implants may help improve her confidence and self-esteem.

However, it is important not to regard breast implants as a "quick fix", and you should take your time when considering whether or not to have them.

If you have significant body image issues or feelings of anxiety anddepression, having breast implants will not necessarily lead to an improvement in these feelings.

If the operation is carried out privately, when making your decision you need to consider the potential financial cost of any consultations you have, the initial operation to insert the implants, and any follow-up treatment you may need.

You also need to be aware of the risk of side effects and complications associated with this type of surgery.

Developmental problems

Sometimes a woman's breasts do not develop "normally" during puberty. Abnormal development can affect one or both breasts. Examples of abnormal breast development include:

  • complete failure of breast tissue development (amastia)
  • marked under-development (hypoplastic growth)
  • significant unevenness (asymmetry) in size
  • abnormal development of shape – for example, tubular breasts (where early growth is limited, resulting in unusually shaped, small, drooping and uneven breasts)

It is normal for breast size and breast shape to vary between women, and many women have one breast which is slightly larger than the other.

However, in some cases where a woman has particularly small or unusually shaped breasts, or where differences in breast size or shape are pronounced, breast implants may have an important psychological benefit.

Things to consider before getting breast implants 

Having any type of cosmetic surgery, such as breast implants, is a major decision. It can be expensive, time consuming and the results can't be guaranteed.

It's important to ask yourself why you want to have breast implants,  as much as you can about the procedure, and consider everything from the potential benefits to the financial costs and health risks.

Don't be pressured by someone else into having breast implants or be rushed into making a decision.

Speak to medical professionals

If you're considering having breast implants, it's best to speak to your GP about it first. They can talk to you about your options and give you more general information about what surgery involves. They can also advise you about the possibility of having the procedure on the .

If your GP thinks cosmetic surgery may be a suitable treatment option for you, they may refer you to a consultant who can talk to you in more detail about the availability of the procedure on the what it involves, and what your expectations of surgery are. You need to be realistic about what the surgery can achieve so you are not disappointed with the results.

If you decide to have breast implants fitted at a private hospital or clinic, it's still a good idea to discuss your plans with your GP first as they will be familiar with your medical history and may be able to recommend particular surgeons.

Consider the financial costs

An important issue to consider when deciding whether to have breast implants is the overall financial cost.

Breast implants on the 

It is rare for the  to fund any type of cosmetic surgery, including breast implants. Most people who want to have breast implants fitted do so by paying for private treatment.

However, there are a few circumstances where breast implants may be available on the . For example, you will be able to have a breast reconstruction, which may include the use of breast implants, on the if you have had breast removal surgery (mastectomy) as part of your treatment for breast cancer.

You may also qualify for breast implants on the  if it is clear the appearance of your breasts is causing you significant psychological distress or your breasts have not developed normally. For example, you may be able to have -funded breast implants if your breasts are significantly uneven or breast tissue has failed to develop.

The availability of breast implants on the  may also depend on your local clinical commissioning group (CCG) and the amount of funding they allocate for breast implant surgery. Your GP may be able to advise you about availability in your area.

Private treatment

In most cases, you'll need to pay for breast implants to be fitted privately. This can be an expensive option and it is important to be aware of all the potential costs involved.

The average cost of having breast implants in the UK is in the region of £3,500-5,000. You may also have to pay additional costs for any consultations you have and any follow-up treatment you require.

For example, if an implant has to be replaced at any point, this will usually need to be paid for privately. The may be able to remove an implant if there is a problem with it, but it will not usually be replaced on the  unless the original operation to fit it was also performed on the 

Be aware of the health risks

It's also very important to make sure you are aware of the potential risks of having breast implants fitted, including the complications related to surgery or further problems that may develop at a later stage.

Some of the problems that can occur as a result of having breast implants fitted include:

  • infection or bleeding after surgery
  • scarring
  • the shrinkage of scar tissue around the implant (capsular contracture)
  • the implant splitting (rupturing)
  • the implant becoming creased or folded
  • temporary or permanent changes to nipple sensation

In some cases, further surgery may be needed to treat any problems that develop.

Research clinics and surgeons

If you do decide you would like to go ahead and have breast implants fitted, it's a good idea to spend some time finding out about treatment centres that can perform the operation.

You can do this by checking the Care Quality Commission (CQC) website or calling their customer helpline on 03000 61 61 61. All independent clinics and hospitals that provide cosmetic surgery must be licensed with the CQC.

 

  • the number of successful breast implant operations they have carried out over the past two years
  • how many breast implant operations they have performed where there have been complications
  • what qualifications they have 
  • whether or not they are a member of a recognised surgical association, such as the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS), theAssociation of Breast Surgery (ABS), or The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS)
  • what sort of follow-up you should expect if things go wrong, even at a much later date

Types of breast implant 

You should discuss the different types of breast implants available with your surgeon.

There are two types of implant available in the UK – silicone gel or saline (sterile salt water).

Both types of implants are surrounded by a firm, elastic silicone shell that helps prevent the implant rupturing (splitting). The surface of the shell can either be smooth or textured.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of implant. The most suitable implant for you will depend on your individual circumstances and personal preference.

Silicone gel implants

Silicone gel implants are the most common type of breast implant used in the UK. The silicone can vary in its firmness and consistency. Unlike some saline implants, they are pre-filled before they are inserted.

Advantages of silicone gel implants include:

  • they have a long history of safe use
  • they may be less likely to wrinkle than other types of implant
  • they are available in round or anatomical (contoured) shapes (often referred to as teardrop shaped)
  • silicone gel can be a very soft and pliable (supple) implant filler, so it allows for movement and gives you a natural feel
  • most silicone gel implants used in the UK have a textured surface, which can reduce the risk of excessive movement and may also avoid problems such as scar tissue shrinking around the implant (capsular contracture)

A disadvantage of silicone implants is that if the implant ruptures, the silicone may spread outside of the scar tissue around the implant and into your breast. This can lead to small lumps developing that are known as siliconomas.

Siliconomas can be tender to touch and may need to be removed if they cause significant pain.

Soft and cohesive silicone gel implants

Either soft or firm silicone gel can be used in breast implants. Implants filled with the firmer gel are called cohesive gel implants.

An advantage of cohesive gel implants over softer silicone implants is that in the unlikely event of the implant's shell rupturing, there is a greater chance the gel would stay inside and not leak into the surrounding tissue.

Cohesive gel implants may also be less likely to wrinkle or fold because of their ability to retain their shape and integrity.

However, cohesive implants may have a slightly less natural feel than the softer silicone implants, and may mean a larger incision has to be made to allow them to be inserted.

Polyurethane-coated silicone implants

It is thought these implants may be associated with a reduced risk of capsular contracture (where scar tissue shrinks around the implant).

However, some surgeons believe they are slightly more difficult to use than other types of breast implants available, and most surgeons in the UK have little experience with their use.

Your surgeon may suggest using these implants as a replacement for your original implants. This is usually if you require further surgery to correct a problem with your implants and you have been experiencing problems with capsular contracture since you had your initial operation.

Saline implants

Saline implants have a strong, silicone shell and are either pre-filled with sterile salt water or filled through a valve once they have been inserted into your breast.

Advantages of saline implants include:

  • they have a long history of safe use
  • as the saline solution is similar to your body fluids, it can be safely absorbed or excreted (got rid of) by the body if the implant ruptures
  • they are available in round or anatomical shapes

Disadvantages of saline implants include:

  • they may rupture or deflate earlier than silicone implants
  • they are more prone to wrinkling or folding
  • they may feel less natural than silicone implants

Other types of implant

Some types of breast implant, such as soya bean oil-filled implants and hydrogel implants, are no longer licensed for use in the UK.

In 2000, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recommended that women with soya bean implants should have them removed.

Although hydrogel implants are no longer available in the UK, women who have them have not been advised to have them removed because they are not thought to cause an immediate risk. However, the MHRA is continuing to monitor their safety.

PIP implants

In 2010, French PIP implants caused concern after it was revealed they contained industrial silicone rather than medical-grade fillers and were more prone to rupture than other implants.

Around 47,000 women in the UK are believed to have had the implants, with the majority of operations done for cosmetic reasons through private clinics.

There is not enough evidence to recommend the routine removal of PIP breast implants, a government expert review has concluded. However, any implants put in by the  can be removed and replaced without charge. 

If the implants were originally fitted privately, they may be removed by the  but you will usually need to pay privately to have them replaced.

If you are worried about your implants, speak to your GP or the clinic where the implants were fitted.

Implant life expectancy

Women who have breast implant surgery rarely keep the same implants for the rest of their lives. Anyone who has a breast implant is likely to need further surgery at some point, either to change the implant or remove the scar tissue that has formed around it.

Most breast implants have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years, after which they may need to be replaced. However, breast implants can sometimes last longer without problems, and some manufacturers guarantee against certain types of implant rupturing for the lifetime of the patient.

Sometimes it is difficult to detect implant rupture. You may have to pay for scans if rupture is suspected, as the  will not necessarily fund investigations or replace your implant if the surgery was performed privately in the first place.

How breast implant surgery is performed 

Breast implant surgery is usually performed under general anaesthetic. This means you will be asleep and unable to feel any pain or discomfort during the procedure.

In some cases, your surgeon may choose to use local anaesthetic to numb your chest area and you may be given a sedative to help you relax. 

You will be awake during surgery, but have very little awareness of what is going on during the procedure.

Your surgeon will discuss this with you before your operation.

Breast implant surgery

Breast implant surgery is sometimes carried out as day surgery, which means you will be able to go home the same day.

However, you may need to stay in hospital overnight if the operation is scheduled late in the day. Depending on the procedure you are having, the operation should take between 60 and 90 minutes to complete.

The incision

Breast implant surgery starts with your surgeon making a cut (incision). Your surgeon will discuss with you the exact location of the incision before the procedure. This will depend on the shape and size of your breasts and where you would like the scars to be.

There are different types of incision located in different places:

  • inframammary fold – the most common type of incision; a small cut is made in the fold underneath each breast
  • periareolar incision – the incision is made around the nipple and usually causes minimal scarring, but sensation in the nipple may be affected
  • axillary incision – the incision is made in your armpit area and may result in more obvious scarring
  • transumbilical breast augmentation (TUBA) – the incision is made near the belly button and a tunnel is formed with a blunt instrument to reach the breast; a saline implant is then placed and filled once in position (this technique is generally not offered in the UK because of problems with achieving the correct placement and shape of the implant)

Fitting the implants

After the incision has been made, the implants can be fitted. The implant can either be positioned between your breast tissue and your chest muscle (subglandular) or behind your chest muscle (submuscular).

In some cases, the surgeon is able to place the implant partly behind the breast and partly behind the muscle (dual plane operation). Your surgeon will be able to advise about the position that is best for you.

Once the implants are in place, the incisions will be sealed using stitches, which will usually be covered with a dressing. The stitches may dissolve on their own over time or they may need to be removed a week or two later.

Reconstructive breast surgery

Breast implant surgery for reconstructive purposes is slightly different from surgery carried out for cosmetic reasons. Reconstructive surgery is often carried out after a mastectomy (where one or both breasts are surgically removed, usually to treat breast cancer).

For reconstructive surgery, as well as using prosthetic (artificial) breast implants, natural tissue implants may also be used. This is where skin, tissue and muscle are taken from another part of your body and used to create a new breast. Tissue may be taken from the abdomen (tummy), back, thighs or buttocks.

Another option involves using a tissue expander that consists of an outer shell made of silicone. The tissue expander is inserted under your chest tissue and gradually inflated using saline (sterile salt water) over a period of a few months.

After the expander has stretched your skin and muscle enough to create healthy new tissue, it can be replaced with a silicone implant or left in.

Women who have had one breast or both breasts removed (a single or double mastectomy) can choose to have immediate or delayed reconstruction.

Immediate reconstruction

The advantages of immediate reconstruction are:

  • you will have your new reconstructed breast as soon as you wake up
  • you may undergo fewer operations and anaesthetics
  • the new breast may look better because the surgeon may use breast skin already there
  • there may be less scarring on the new breast

The disadvantages of immediate reconstruction are:

  • you will have less time to make a decision about the type of reconstruction you would like
  • any radiotherapy treatment you have after surgery could damage the reconstructed breast
  • any chemotherapy treatment you have after surgery could be delayed if there are complications during reconstructive surgery

Delayed reconstruction

The advantages of delayed reconstruction are:

  • you will have more time to make an informed decision about the type of reconstruction you would like
  • your breast cancer treatment will be finished and will not affect your reconstructive surgery

A disadvantage of delayed reconstruction is that you may have a larger scar on your reconstructed breast. You will also have to live with a mastectomy until your treatment is completed, although you will be offered an external prosthesis (breast-shaped bra filler) to maintain your shape in clothes.

Recovering after breast implant surger

You will experience some pain, swelling and bruising immediately after breast implant surgery.

Your chest may feel tight and your breathing may be restricted. This is normal and your symptoms will start to improve over the next few weeks.

You will usually rest at the hospital or clinic in a semi-upright position. This will help keep you comfortable and minimise swelling. You will be given painkillers if you need them.

After returning home, you can continue to take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. However, you should not take ibuprofen if you have stomach, kidney or liver problems, or if you've had them in the past.

If you have asthma, ibuprofen may also be unsuitable for you. Check with your GP or pharmacist if you're unsure.

Going home

After having breast implant surgery, you may either be allowed home the same day or you may need to stay in the hospital or clinic overnight.

On returning home, you will need rest to give your body time to recover. Avoid excessive use of your arms and chest area as it may cause irritation and bleeding.

After surgery, your breasts may feel hard and you may experience some painful twinges or general discomfort. These symptoms will sometimes persist for a few weeks.

Aftercare advice

To get the best results, follow the aftercare advice of your surgeon. You may be asked to attend some postoperative appointments so your surgeon can monitor your recovery.

Your surgeon will be able to give you specific advice about any activities you need to avoid and for how long, but generally you should take a week or two off work and avoid heavy lifting or strenuous exercise for at least a month.

You will usually be able to return to most of your normal activities within six weeks, although you should keep the incision sites out of direct sunlight for about a year because the skin in these areas is more delicate.

Some surgeons also recommend wearing a well-fitting sports bra 24 hours a day for up to three months after breast surgery.

Note your implant details

Make sure you keep a record of the details of your breast implants. You should make a note of the:

  • manufacturer
  • style
  • serial number
  • batch number (also known as lot number) 

If your surgeon does not provide you with this information, you should ask for it and keep it in a safe place.

When to seek medical help

Contact your GP or the clinic where the operation was carried out as soon as possible if you have any unexpected symptoms or if you experience severe pain. Possible warning signs include:

  • severe pain in your breast(s)
  • redness of the skin of your breast(s)
  • an intense burning sensation in your breast(s)
  • unusual, unexpected or excessive swelling in or around your breast(s)
  • deflated breast(s)
  • a smelly or coloured discharge from your wounds
  • a high temperature (fever)
  • any lumps or aching causing you concern

Results of surgery

Although most women are pleased with the eventual appearance of their breasts after surgery, the results can vary and depend on your circumstances.

For example, the appearance of your breasts after the operation may be affected by:

  • your age
  • your overall health
  • your ability to heal
  • your existing breasts
  • the position of your nipples
  • your skin texture

After having breast implant surgery, you may be worried your breast implants look unnatural. This is normal, and to begin with your breasts are likely to feel quite taut or rigid.

You may also experience changes in the way your breasts feel, with different areas becoming more or less sensitive than they used to be. In most cases, any changes in sensation will be temporary, although they may occasionally be permanent.

Your breasts will usually start to look and feel more natural within a few months of surgery, as the breast tissue, muscle and skin stretches to accommodate the implants.

Having realistic expectations and making a considered and informed decision will help ensure you are happy with the results of your operation.

You should expect that the feel and look of your breasts will change as you get older, and implants will not stop your breasts from sagging.

Risks associated with breast implants 

Like any type of operation, surgery to fit breast implants is associated with a number of complications.

These may be related to the operation itself, or they may occur later as a result of a problem with the implants.

In some cases, additional surgery may be needed to treat problems that develop.

General risks of surgery

All forms of surgery carry some degree of risk. Complications that can affect anyone who has surgery include:

  • an adverse reaction to the anaesthetic
  • excessive bleeding
  • infection

There are also complications specifically associated with breast implant surgery. Some of these are discussed below.

Capsular contracture

After having a breast implant, your body will create a capsule of fibrous scar tissue around the implant as part of the healing process. This is a natural reaction that occurs when any foreign object is surgically implanted into the body.

Over time, the scar tissue will begin to shrink. This shrinkage is known as capsular contraction. The rate and extent at which the shrinkage occurs varies from person to person. In some people, the capsule can tighten and squeeze the implant, making the breast feel hard. You may also experience pain and discomfort.

Capsular contracture is an unavoidable complication of breast implant surgery. Everyone who has breast implants will experience capsular contracture to some degree and it is likely further surgery to resolve the problem will be needed in the future.

Rupture

A rupture is a split that occurs in the implant's casing. It can be caused if the implant's outer shell gets weaker over time, the implant is damaged during the operation, there is a flaw in the implant, or the breast is injured.

When implants were first developed, they had very thin walls and rupturing was a common problem. However, modern implants used in the UK since the 1990s rupture much less frequently.

If your implant ruptures, it is recommended you have it removed and replaced with a new one.

It is not always possible to tell if a breast implant has ruptured, but signs can include lumpiness, swelling, redness and tenderness in the breast.

If you have a saline (salt water) implant, any leakage from the implant should not cause you problems. As saline is a sterile salt-water solution, your body is able to safely absorb it. 

If you have silicone implants, the silicone that leaks out of a ruptured implant may cause problems, such as siliconomas or a gel bleed.

If your implant was fitted privately, you may need to pay for any special investigations needed to confirm a suspected implant rupture.

Siliconomas

If you have a silicone breast implant that ruptures, the silicone may spread outside of the scar capsule and into your breast. This can lead to small lumps known as siliconomas developing.

Siliconomas can be tender to touch and they may need to be removed if they are causing significant pain. In rare cases, the silicone can spread to the muscles under your breast, your lymph nodes (glands) under your armpit, or around the nerves to your arm.

Gel bleed

Gel bleed occurs to some degree in all breast implants. It is where small molecules of silicone polymer separate from the surface of the implant and are taken up into the surrounding tissues or lymphatic system (the network of vessels that help the body fight infection found in several places around the body, including in the armpit).

If the silicone molecules get into the lymphatic system, they may cause your lymph nodes (glands) to become slightly swollen. This is usually a minor problem, although in some cases the enlarged lymph nodes can become uncomfortable.

Seroma

After having breast implant surgery, fluid can build up around your implant. This is known as a seroma and is fairly common. Further surgery may be needed to drain away the fluid in severe cases, but most seromas resolve without needing to be drained.

Scarring

After breast implant surgery, you will have some degree of scarring. In most cases the scarring is relatively mild.

However, in a few cases the scarring is more severe. For these women, their scars may be red, lumpy, thick or painful.

These symptoms should improve gradually and over time the scars will begin to fade. But in some cases it may take several years before there is a noticeable improvement.

Creasing and folds

Sometimes a breast implant can affect the appearance of the skin on your breast. For example, after your operation you may find your skin has creases, kinks, folds or ripples.

Creasing and folds tend to be more common in women who have very small breasts before having breast implant surgery.

Altered nipple sensation

After breast implant surgery, about one in seven women find their nipples are less sensitive or completely desensitised (have no sensation at all).

Alternatively, your nipples may be more sensitive after having breast implant surgery. Sometimes the nipples can become so sensitive they are painful. Increased sensitivity usually lasts for three to six months.

If your nipples are painful, speak to your GP or surgeon about it.

Breastfeeding problems

Having breast implants should not stop you breastfeeding, although some women will find they are not able to breastfeed after breast implants. You may also produce slightly less breast milk than you would without implants.

Your baby will not experience any side effects if you have implants and breastfeed.

Infection and bleeding

Infection and bleeding are relatively rare after breast implant surgery. However, if you are having an implant fitted for breast reconstruction after a mastectomy (breast removal), you may have a greater risk of infection and bleeding.

Most infections can be treated using antibiotics. But if your breast becomes severely infected, you may need to have the implant removed to prevent further complications developing. You should be able to have the implant reinserted after the infection has cleared up.

However, it is important the implant is not reinserted too soon, as this can increase the risk of infection. Waiting a few months after the implant was removed is usually recommended.

Some research suggests your risk of infection and bleeding may be increased if you smoke because your wounds will take longer to heal. Your surgeon may recommend not smoking before your operation to reduce the risk of developing complications.

Cancer

All types of breast implants are associated with a slightly increased risk of a very rare form of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). However, it is not clear if the implants themselves directly cause this condition, and the overall risk is still extremely small.

In the US, figures from the National Cancer Institute state only around 1 in every 500,000 women is diagnosed with ALCL each year, and only around 3 in every 100 million are diagnosed with ALCL in the breast.

Breast cancer

There is strong scientific evidence to suggest having breast implants will not increase your risk of developing breast cancer, but it is still important for women with breast implants to attend breast screeningappointments when invited.

Breast implants can affect breast screening as it may be more difficult to interpret the mammograms of women who have implants fitted. You should tell the healthcare professional taking the scan you have implants so they can ensure the best possible images are taken. Having a mammogram is unlikely to cause rupture of an implant unless it is already damaged.

If you have breast implants and develop breast cancer, your chances of making a full recovery will not be affected, but it is likely you would need to have your implants removed during the course of your treatment.

Silicone implant safety concerns

In recent years the safety of silicone breast implants has been debated. A small number of women have reported serious complications after silicone gel breast implant surgery. These complications include:

  • muscle spasms and pain
  • swollen and painful joints
  • rashes
  • changes in eye and saliva fluid

It was thought these complications may have occurred as a result of silicone gel leakage that spread to other parts of the body.

In response to these concerns, the Department of Health set up an independent review group to investigate the safety of silicone implants. The group found no scientific evidence to support the relationship between silicone implants and illness in women.

However, in March 2010 the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) advised surgeons not to use certain implants produced by a company called Poly Implant Prothese (PIP). These implants are filled with a type of silicone gel that has not been approved.

As yet there is no evidence to suggest the gel inside them is harmful. However, speak to your GP or the clinic where the implants were fitted if you have these gel implants and have any concerns.

Will the  remove and replace my breast implants?

If you develop problems with your breast implants, you can usually have them removed on the 

However, it is unlikely the  will replace the implants unless the original operation to fit them was carried out on the 

If your implants were fitted privately, you may need to pay to have them replaced.
 

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