…they’re plastered all over the media as an object and a body part that makes you more “feminine”, “beautiful”, or “sexy”. It wasn’t so long ago that the bigger the better were all the rage thanks to Playboy and Centerfold. But, in recent years and the rise in popularity of bralettes and the eco/au natural-living movement, small boobies have become more “in” and are making a comeback. However, breast augmentations are still “the most popular cosmetic procedure performed in the U.S….with 290,467 patients” going under the knife, “according to new statistics released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons” (People Bodies, 2017).
Today, February 13th, is National Breast Implant Illness Awareness Day, so I’m opening up about my own personal research in the past year on breast implants and their potential health impact on your body, mind, and overall well-being.
Besides breast implants not being lifetime devices (“the longer you have breast implants, the more likely it is that complications will occur and you will need to have them removed”) (FDA, 2017), did you know they can potentially make you sick? Like, really really sick?
Last year, a friend of a friend added me to a Facebook group called Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole with over 33k women in it (which mysteriously, today, on their self-proclaimed National Breast Implant Illness Awareness Day, the group vanished and was shut down by Facebook then reappeared hours later with Facebook issuing the response that “a team member deleted the group by mistake”…bizarre coincidence).
Women claim explanting with an En Bloc/Total Capsulectomy, or removing the breast implants and the entire capsule of scar tissue that forms around the implant, has saved their lives and/or relieved them of debilitating, mysterious symptoms. There are stories from friends, family members, husbands, and children all saying the same thing: breast implants were poisoning my _____ (insert: wife, spouse, girlfriend, sister, cousin, friend, aunt, grandma…).
Allergan silicone implants with a mystery blob growing inside
In the group, women share photos of their implants and the disgusting, horrific scenes of gooey ruptured silicone implants, bubbling of the “solid” gel inside implants, gross egg-yolk-like growths swimming inside silicone implants (photo above), or toxic black mold growing inside saline implants or valves, and women have also opened up about a rare form of cancer; recently, straight off the FDA website, there has been scientific evidence and proof that breast implants can cause breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), “which is a rare T-cell lymphoma that can develop following breast implants” (FDA, 2017).
I often hear women with saline implants say, “I chose saline because they’re safer than silicone,” but given the fact that every implant is made out of a silicone shell, and there seem to be more moldy encounters and leaks in saline implants, I’m not too confident with that statement (or either option after reading story after story on the BII FB page…)
You may have heard about breast implant illness from a few celebrities; Eden Sassoon, Yolanda Hadid, and Crystal Hefner have all opened up about their real-life struggles with breast implants making them extremely ill. “Playboy playmate-turned-official-missus Crystal Hefner recently had her 34D breast implants removed. The reason? A mysterious condition called ‘breast implant illness’ that she says made her silicone implants slowly poison her for eight years” (She Knows, 2016).
“At first, she loved her new curvaceous look, but after a few years she began to feel generally unwell, developing ‘intolerance to foods and beverages, unexplained back pain, constant neck and shoulder pain, cognitive dysfunction (brain fog, memory loss), stunted hair growth, incapacitating fatigue, burning bladder pain, low immunity, recurring infections and problems with [her] thyroid and adrenals, according to her Facebook post” (She Knows, 2016).
So, what the heck is BII?
Nicole Daruda, the founder of Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole, and the creator of healingbreastimplantillness.com, states that “breast implant illness is a period of sickness affecting the body caused by silicone or saline breast implants. Symptoms of breast implant illness vary from body to body due to personal differences, the type of breast implants and the progression of the illness however it appears that a few symptoms show up a little earlier and more consistently such as the following”:
- Fatigue/low energy, cognitive dysfunction (brain fog, memory loss), headaches, joint and muscle pain, hair loss, recurring infections, swollen lymph nodes and swollen glands, rashes, IBS, problems with thyroid and adrenals.
Nicole believes the symptoms listed above are the body’s way of indicating implants may be causing illness. “Because breast implants affect most body systems, symptoms are widespread and can be related to toxicity, biotoxicity, immune dysfunction/failure, auto-immune diseases, neurological symptoms, endocrine symptoms and metabolic symptoms” (Darula, 2018).
While there is no official medical study, current FDA recall, or actual scientific proof that Breast Implant Illness is a “real thing,” how can you deny that over 33,000 women (in just one Facebook group alone!) have had to spend tens of thousands of dollars on being medical guinea pigs – seeing specialist after specialist, undergoing extensive lab testing, MRIs, ultrasounds, CT scans, therapy, and have actual REAL claims that their implants may be making them sick? How can you turn a blind eye to the real-life-stories of women who have explanted with En Bloc/Total Capsulectomy (removing the implant AND the entire capsule of scar tissue that grows around the implant to PROTECT THE BODY) and say that their medical conditions that resolved post-explant were “all in their heads”? Dr. Axe and many holistic doctors stand firmly behind breast implant illness being very, very real.
Trust me, I get it. Your friend Shannon has had implants for 20 years and is fine. Your bestie Megan, and your college roomie, Kate have implants and haven’t had any issues, either…great, they’re the “norm”. But for tens of thousands of women in the U.S. alone, breast implant issues can be, and are, real.
Darula has noted other women have reported the following symptoms (but, there is no proof of these conditions not being pre-existing, have other factors, or link to BII (breast implant illness) exclusively, so keep that in mind when forming your own opinion on BII and the risk of implants. Of course, there can always be other health issues and outside factors causing simultaneous symptoms, so it’s important to work with a doctor, specialist, naturopath, and/or therapist to determine if the following symptoms stand alone or can be part of a bigger issue or illness, such as BII:
- Fatigue, extreme fatigue, or chronic fatigue
- Cognitive dysfunction (brain fog, difficulty concentrating, memory loss)
- Muscle pain and weakness + joint pain + inflammation + numbness
- Hair loss, dry skin, dry hair + premature aging + skin rashes
- Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
- Poor sleep + insomnia
- Sudden food intolerances and/or food allergies
- Dermatological issues like dry eyes, decline in vision, eye floaters, and/or vision disturbances
- Hypo/hyper thyroid symptoms + hypo/hyper adrenal symptoms
- Estrogen/progesterone imbalance or hormone issues
- Low libido
- Slow healing of cuts, scrapes, and easy bruising and slow healing of colds, flus, or other illnesses
- Constant throat clearing, cough, difficulty swallowing, choking, and/or reflux issues
- Metallic taste in mouth
- Anxiety, depression, and/or panic attacks / fear of dying
- Vertigo + dizziness
- Gastrointestinal + digestive issues
- Mysterious low-grade fevers, night sweats, and/or intolerance to heat/cold + cold and discolored limbs, hands, and feet
- New and persistent bacterial and viral infections, fungal infections, yeast infections, candida, sinus, UTIs, toxic shock sundrome, and/or frequent urination
- Ear ringing
- Headaches + migraines
- Heart palpitations, changes in normal heart rate, and/or chest pain / shortness of breath
- Sore, aching joins and limbs + cramping
- Swollen and tender lymph nodes in breast area, underarm, throat, neck, and/or groin + pain or burning sensation around implant and/or underarm
- Liver + kidney dysfunction + gallbladder issues
- Symptoms or diagnosis of Fibromyalgia
- Symptoms or diagnosis of Lyme Disease
- Symptoms or diagnosis of EBV
- Symptoms or diagnosis of autoimmune diseases, such as Raynaud’s, Hashimoto’s, R.A., Scleroderma, Lupus, Sjorgen’s; A 2008 study “‘The Association Between Silicone Implants and Both Antibodies and Autoimmune Diseases’ stated that women with silicone breast implants had a higher IgE serum level than women without silicone breast implants. (13) IgE levels are high when the body’s immune system responds to a perceived threat, releasing additional immunoglobulin E. Elevated concentrations are found in various diseases including: primary immunodeficiencies, infections, inflammatory diseases, and malignancies (14)” (Dr. Axe, 2018).
- Symptoms of or a diagnosis of BIA-ALCL Lymphoma; “Anaplastic large-cell lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that is linked to exposure to certain chemicals, immune system deficiency, certain infections and several autoimmune diseases. According to the American Cancer Society, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematous, Sjogren disease, celiac sprue and other diseases have been linked with an increased rate of non-Hodgkin lymphoma” (Dr. Axe, 2018).
Dr. Axe, Nicole, 3 naturopath doctors I’ve personally interviewed, and many other doctors believe that if you are experiencing BII symptoms, or have been diagnosed with an autoimmune-related disease, “having your implants removed may provide the relief you’ve been seeking” (Dr. Axe, 2018). That being said, you should also talk to your doctor and have them run any necessary lab work or imaginging to rule out any underlying diseases and/or issues first.
“As many as 20 percent of women who receive breast implants for augmentation have to have their implants removed within 8 to 10 years. You may need to have your implant removed at some time over the course of your life because of one or more local complications…The longer you have a breast implant, the greater the chance of implant rupture” (FDA, 2017). So, back to your friends Sally, Kate, and Megan…1/5 of you may have an issue with your implants by year 8.
If you have implants, when is the last time you were told you should be getting routine MRIs? When is the last time your doctor said it was necessary? When was the last time insurance covered it as medically necessary?
When I was first having pain and felt a lump in my left breast last year, my doctors scheduled a mammogram. But mammograms can increase your risk of rupture with implants, so I asked for an MRI instead to be safe. I was told it probably wouldn’t be covered as medically necessary, but since I mentioned a lump, it might be, so I’d have to wait and see…how and why should that even be up for debate if the FDA clearly states that women with implants should have routine MRIs of their chest to check for silent ruptures? Since I got implants in 2011, you want to know how many MRIs I’ve had of my boobies before last year? None. (I had no idea you were even supposed to until this year when I was scrolling through the FDA’s website).
Speaking of ruptures, even if you don’t have noticeable signs and symptoms of a breast implant rupture, it could still be there; that’s when it’s called a silent rupture.
“A ‘silent rupture’ doesn’t change the way an implant looks or feels to a woman because the rupture occurs within the capsule. Silent ruptures are not usually evident by a physical examination by a doctor. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most effective method for detecting silent rupture of silicone gel-filled breast implants. The FDA recommends MRI at 3 years after implantation and every 2 years after that to screen for rupture…Silicone gel that leaks outside the capsule surrounding the implant may travel (migrate) away from the breast. The leaked silicone gel may cause lumps to form in the breast or in other tissue, most often the chest wall, armpit or arm. It may be difficult or impossible to remove silicone gel that has traveled to other parts of the body.” (FDA, 2017).
Susan Kolb, MD has spent years treating women who believe their implants are making them sick, but also had silicone implants that she believes made her ill (ZWIVEL, 2018). “According to Kolb, many women become ill from breast implants due to silicone and chemical toxicity in silicone and biotoxicity from mold in saline” (ZWIVEL, 2018).
From Zwievl’s article, “Is Breast Implant Illness Real? Doctors Discuss Symptoms and Recovery”:
“The Dow Corning engineering data shows that the implant shell degrades at 8 to 10 years due to a lipolysis reaction,” says Kolb. “Science shows that silicone is an adjuvant capable of causing autoimmune disease, that mold can grow in and around saline implants, that fibromylagia is common with ruptured implants, and that patients with certain HLA types become very ill when exposed to silicone…About half of the capsular bacterial cultures that we take during surgery grow out bacteria such as MRSA, E Coli, Pseudomonas, etc. The plastic surgeons who say otherwise have not read the medical literature and have failed their patients who return to them with systemic illness by telling them that their implants are not the source of their problems, when in fact they are… The ethics of this problem are obvious.”
Cheri Ong, MD, like Susan Kolb, MD, is also a passionate advocate for women’s health (ZWIVEL, 2018).
“As a plastic surgeon with functional medicine training, I believe that it is not all psychological…we just do not know and may not be able to clearly define the pathways on why some things occur. There is still a lot to be learned regarding the topic, and I believe that that some of us are more predisposed or more ‘sensitive’ to certain materials based on our genetic makeup. We know that some of us have genetic makeup that does not allow some of our detoxification pathways to function properly (MTHFR). In addition, all of us have certain environmental triggers or food that increases the inflammatory response in the body that are mediated differently from a true allergy reaction” (ZWIVEL, 2018).
“Ong points out that for most patients the cause is not their breast implants. She says that overall well-being usually improves with correction of nutrient deficiencies, elimination diets and improvement in the patient’s immune system. But she feels that if other causes are not identified, it is reasonable for the patient to have the implants removed, so long as they are well-educated and informed on the topic” (ZWIVEL, 2018).
Photo by artist Stella Maria Baer @stellamariabaer
In 2011, I was so proud to have saved enough money (about $6,000) to buy boobies for myself so I could feel confident in my wedding dress. I was told silicone gel were new and hot on the market, and incredibly safe. I was also told they have a lifetime warranty/guarentee, and to picture a gummy bear….if you cut it in half, none of the silicone gel would leak out anywhere, so they’re “totally safe and FDA approved” and I could still definitely breastfeed with little or no issues….k.
My whole life I was teased for being a barely-A, called “mosquito bites,” and growing up as a year-round athlete, I was flat as a board. My insecurities of my chest continued through college, where I never felt like I was in the “in” crowd because I was too much of a tomboy, and push-up bras couldn’t do anything to boobs that had nothing to push-up. I HATED when guys wanted to take off my bra if we were getting hot and heavy…like absolutely loathed it. So I’d make them keep the room pitch black if my “girls” were making an escape.
Then I got married, and my then-husband was big on the pro-boobs train. His dad even told me to use some of his friend’s lip plumper on my boobs so they would grow. (ah!) Living in South Florida, fake boobs were on more street corners than McDonald’s, so I was convinced I wanted them, and that I needed them. My ex actually said “he knew my body could always be ‘fixed.'” OYYY.
Instead of investing in boobs, I should have invested in more self-love, support, and therapy, I guess…
That being said, at pre-op, I signed off on all the small text that said the following straight from the FDA’s website itself:
- Breast implants are not lifetime devices; the longer you have your implants, the more likely it will be for you to have them removed.
- The longer you have breast implants, the more likely you are to experience local complications and adverse outcomes.
- The most common local complications and adverse outcomes are capsular contracture, reoperation and implant removal. Other complications include rupture or deflation, wrinkling, asymmetry, scarring, pain, and infection at the incision site.
- You should assume that you will need to have additional surgeries (reoperations).
- Many of the changes to your breast following implantation may be cosmetically undesirable and irreversible.
- If you have your implants removed but not replaced, you may experience changes to your natural breasts such as dimpling, puckering, wrinkling, breast tissue loss, or other undesirable cosmetic changes.
- If you have breast implants, you will need to monitor your breasts for the rest of your life. If you notice any abnormal changes in your breasts, you will need to see a doctor promptly.
- If you have silicone gel-filled breast implants, you will need to undergo periodic MRI examinations in order to detect ruptures that do not cause symptoms (“silent ruptures”). For early detection of silent rupture, the FDA recommends that women with silicone gel-filled breast implants receive MRI screenings 3 years after they receive a new implant and every 2 years after that. MRI screening for implant rupture is costly and may not be covered by your insurance.
- If you have breast implants, you have a low risk of developing a rare type of cancer called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) in the breast tissue surrounding the implant. BIA-ALCL is not breast cancer. Women diagnosed with BIA-ALCL may need to be treated with surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
LIKE WHY DID I SIGN OFF ON THAT?!
Photos of En Bloc/Total Capsulectomy explant by Dr. Chun in Newport Beach, CA via Instagram
Dating back to 1984, a woman brought suit against Dow Corning, “claiming that her autoimmune disease was triggered by her silicone breast implants” (Radis, 2016). She won her case, and the jury awarded her $211,000 in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages (Radis, 2016).
“In 1990, millions of television viewers tuned in to watch Connie Chung on a segment of Face to Face interview five women who believed their silicone breast implants had triggered muscle and joint pain, rashes, mouth ulcers and debilitating fatigue…That same year, lawsuits against Dow Corning and other silicone breast implant manufacturers flooded the courts” (Radis, 2016). “A jury in San Francisco awarded Mariann Hopkins $7.3 million in 1991, convinced that her ruptured silicone implants were linked to her mixed connective tissue disease…The following year, FDA Commissioner David Kessler, MD…ruled that (silicone implant) manufacturers had not provided sufficient evidence for the FDA to declare them safe (Radis, 2016). “The number of individual lawsuits against Dow Corning ballooned to 12,359” (Radis, 2016).
In 1994, a “Houston jury awarded three women a total of $27.3 million for silicone-induced autoimmune problems…A $4 billion agreement, the largest class action settlement in U.S. history, resolved the lengthy battles over causation (and) Dow Corning (and other smaller manufacturers) agreed to pay claimants a set amount of compensation for a menu of diseases” (Radis, 2016).
“Dow Corning was not the only manufacturer of breast implants sued during this time; 3M paid $325 million to compensate women who received their silicone breast implants and Union Carbide Corporation agreed to pay $138 million. Bristol-Myers Squibb, Baxter International, and Inamed Inc. also contributed to a settlement agreement. This settlement granted women payments of $200,000 to $2 million for the diagnosis, treatment and removal of leaking silicone breast implants due to the silicone migrating, which causes life-threatening autoimmune disorders like lupus” (Dr. Axe, 2018).
“After being off-market for a little more than a decade, the FDA approved silicone gel-filled breast implants for augmentation in November 2006, with directives that manufacturers are required to conduct post-operative studies to “further characterize the safety and effectiveness of their silicone gel-filled breast implants and to answer scientific questions that the premarket clinical trials were not designed to answer” (Dr. Axe, 2018).
“Early in 2011, the FDA issued a Safety Communication on anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) in women with breast implants because research indicated that there is an increased risk of developing this rare disease in the scar capsule adjacent to the implant (Dr. Axe, 2018). In March of 2017, a rare form of cancer made news’ headlines again with scientific proof and evidence that breast implants were, in fact, the culprit of its specific makeup.
Now, are there millions of women all over the world who have no symptoms (yet) or maybe never? Yes. But, there are tens of thousands, if not millions, who do. At the end of the day, any type of implant is a foreign object put into our body, and our body’s natural reaction is to fight it off and get rid of it (why scar tissue capsules form around breast implants). Just like an autoimmune disease (which implants may cause), it’s our body attacking itself trying to protect it from an invader. I mean, think how hard our bodies fight to push out a splinter or build a skin barrier around it to protect our body from it?! Ugh, gross.
“The foreign body being present will trigger an immune reaction recruiting cells and causing inflammation/swelling to deal with the microorganisms that are going to be present on it…” (rebrn, 2017).
Obviously someone can raise the argument that millions of humans have other types of implants aka foreign objects in the body, like screws in their hips, pacemakers, stents, or other medical devices build to save people’s lives and/or body parts, and for that, I have no answer as to why some people develop sicknesses and some do not. I am not a doctor, and the reason for this post is to shed light on the potential issues of breast implants that we don’t think about (or want to know) when we just want boobies to enhance our “womanly” appearance.
Since BII has no test or “yes, you’re positive!” screening/labwork, it’s important for you to do your own research on the matter. If you are considering getting implants, be sure to research the potential risks. If you are questioning health issues and think they may, in fact, be linked to BII, do your research.
Currently, getting an En Bloc/Total Capsulectomy explant is considered the best way to get all parts of the implant out of your body, and hopefully leave you feeling a bit better.
While there is no guarantee implants are the root of the medical mysteries discussed in this article (and those sited), considering they should be replaced every 7-10 years anyway, before you go under the knife for a pair of new tatas, weigh all the options and do your research.
If you want bigger, smaller, more perky, or just new boobs, whether you’ve never had implants before or are debating getting a replacement set after a rupture or issue, you may want to consider an explant or explant and lift if you’ve been experiencing any of the symptoms BII can cause/heighten.
Women are the future. Our children are the future. It’s time we start loving our bodies, our natural bodies, without trying to prove to society that we need big boobs to look womanly, feminine, or “sexy.” If implants make you feel confident and beautiful, and you personally decide the benefits outweigh the risks, then good on ya. But if you’re on the fence, I encourage you to practice more self-love, more self-acceptance, and truly decide if implants will make you feel like a babe (because I bet you’re a total bombshell without them…even if you have saggy breastfed boobies like me.)
I wish I could go back and tell my 24-year-old self that I love myself. That I don’t need someone else convincing me that bigger boobs would make me “prettier,” “look skinner,” or make my body “more proportionate.” I’d hug her. I’d tell her she is beautiful. I’d tell her the risks don’t outweigh an A to C cup. I’d tell her her future self would thank her for not getting implants. And that her body (and her soul) would eventually not like them anyway…
Each year, millions of women undergo surgery to get breast augs – to go bigger, go smaller, fix botched boob jobs, or just get new implants, in general, so, anyone wanting to potentially explant for health reasons (or just because!) should be looked at no differently than those going under for cosmetic reasons.
What are your thoughts on BII? Have breast implants affected your health in a negative way?
Disclaimer: this article contains my own research and my own opinion on breast implant illness (BII) and breast implants. I have gathered and outlined informational, educational, and entertainment data, quotes, and information. I am not a doctor. There are no tests that proclaim BII is real. You are entitled to your own opinion, your own research, and need to discuss any signs or symptoms with your doctor, local ER, etc… While the information on this website is about medical issues, it is not medical advice. Certain websites may be linked in this article; The fact that a website is linked to this post does not imply that Shelley/Salty Sweet Seasons and the persons responsible for this website sponsors, endorses or is affiliated or associated with the entity that owns or is responsible for the website. Any use of or reliance on this post or the contents of this website shall be at your sole risk. Shelley and the persons responsible for this website makes no representation or warranty of any kind regarding this website or the contents of this website, all of which are provided on an “AS IS” basis. Shelley and the persons responsible for this website expressly disclaims all representations, warranties, conditions and endorsements. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, Shelley and the persons responsible for this website makes no warranty as to the accuracy, quality or completeness of the contents of this website, nor to title or non-infringement, nor to the absence of any software virus or other harmful component. Shelley and the persons responsible for this website does not warrant that this website will continue to operate, will operate without interruptions, or that it will be error-free. None of the information provided on this post is provided as medical advice or legal advice and you agree that it will not be relied upon as such. In no circumstances shall Shelley or the persons responsible for this website be responsible or liable for any loss or damages whatsoever, including (without limiting the generality of the foregoing) any direct, indirect, incidental, special, punitive or consequential damages, arising from or in connection with your use of, access to or your reliance on, or your inability to use or access, this website, this post, any contents of this website, any external links on this website, any website linked to this website, or any contents thereof, or any website linking to this website, or any contents thereof.
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