Removal of Breast Implants and Capsules
Breast implants are relevant and appropriate for many breast cancer patients who undergo mastectomies. They are also widely used by women purely for cosmetic reasons.
Occasionally, some patients encounter problems from having breast implants. These include:
Capsular contracture: the body naturally forms a layer of scar tissue around the implant. This scar tissue is called a capsule. Capsular contracture occurs if/when the capsule starts to contract around the implant. This may cause discomfort and reduce arm mobility. Surgically removing the implant, along with the capsule will resolve capsular contracture.
Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL): certain textured breast implants (which have since been recalled) were found to lead to an increased risk of developing BIA-ALCL (1 in 4,000 women). When detected early, surgical intervention is usually sufficient to treat BIA-ALCL. The Therapeutic Goods Administration advises that unless there are symptoms (pain, swelling, or a lump around the breast or armpit), removing the implants is not recommended. If symptoms exist, medical advice should be sought.
Breast Implant Illness (BII): BII is the term used to describe a wide group of unexplained persisting symptoms that some women with breast implants experience. These symptoms may include aches and pain, chronic fatigue, brain fog, rashes, hair loss, and gastrointestinal discomfort. Studies are still being conducted to understand the link between implants and these symptoms. Some women report that symptoms progressively resolve after their implants are removed.
Implant Rupture: while implants are designed to be resistant to rupture, they do occasionally rupture, leading to their contents leaking out of the shell. Implants are usually filled with silicone or saline, both of which are considered non-toxic. However, if a rupture occurs, the removal of the implant is advised.
Removing breast implants, along with the entire capsules, are at times medically indicated. Women with implants are recommended to speak with a surgeon to determine if implant removal is appropriate for them.
More information on breast implant complications and removal can be found in our patient pamphlet.