After a breast cancer diagnosis, you are often presented with several treatment options, depending on the type and stage of the disease. A mastectomy is often prescribed to remove the cancerous tissue, and your surgeon may also suggest reconstruction using breast implants to help restore your shape following surgery.
Unfortunately, there are many myths about breast implants and how they can impact your recovery and lifestyle after breast cancer. For women considering breast augmentation and reconstruction after a mastectomy, it’s crucial to sort through all the misinformation so you can make the right decision for your health.
Myth 1: Breast Reconstruction is a Single Surgery
Board certified plastic surgeons can perform breast augmentation surgery immediately after mastectomy surgery; however, the implant placement may not occur in the same surgical procedure. Depending on the type of mastectomy, how much remaining breast tissue you have, and the proposed type of reconstructive surgery, you may need two or more surgeries to achieve your desired result.
During the first surgery, your surgeon may take the remaining chest muscle and place it directly under the skin. Then, they may insert tissue expanders to create enough space to accommodate the breast implant.
The second surgery involves removing the expanders and placing the implant. You will need to wear a post-operative compression vest or bra to prevent the implant from shifting and facilitate a faster recovery. A third surgery may be necessary to reconstruct the nipple.
Myth 2: Breast Implants Last a Lifetime
Both saline and silicone implants wear out eventually. On average, breast implants need to be replaced every 10-15 years or if they rupture. The chances of a rupture increase by 1% every year following the surgery but rise dramatically after 10 years.
Many ruptures cannot be detected, so the American Society of Plastic Surgeons recommends that women with implants have an MRI every few years to monitor the condition of your implants.
Several other complications may mean you need to have your implants replaced prematurely. Capsular contracture is a condition in which fibrous scar tissue forms around the implant, hardens, and begins to contract. Up to 72% of capsular contracture cases occur within the first two years after plastic surgery.
Mild capsular contracture occurs in most breast implant cases. It is a natural immune reaction to a foreign body placed in the chest wall; it typically resolves within several weeks.
More severe cases can cause the breasts to become hard, misshapen, and tender. In these cases, your cosmetic surgeon prescribes revision surgery to remove your breast implants, and you are given a course of antibiotics.
There is also a slight risk of developing a rare implant-related lymphoma. Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) is an autoimmune cancer that occurs primarily in patients with textured implants.
Myth 3: Breast Implants Make it Difficult to Detect Future Breast Cancers
Following a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, you are monitored closely for the rest of your life to ensure you are in good health and to detect a potential recurrence or secondary cancer as early as possible. There is little evidence to suggest that either saline or silicone breast implants disrupt common imaging equipment.
Your doctor may take some additional images during your mammogram called implant displacement views. They may also suggest alternative detection methods, such as an ultrasound to gain a comprehensive view of the chest.
Myth 4: Breast Implants are the Only Reconstructive Surgery Method
Most women are candidates for breast implants, but numerous other effective methods for surgically reconstructing breasts should be discussed between the surgeon and patient.
Most alternative reconstructive techniques use tissue sourced from your buttocks or abdomen to reshape the chest wall.
Myth 5: Silicone Breast Implants are Unsafe
One of the biggest breast augmentation myths is that silicone implants are unsafe for women after breast cancer. However, both saline and silicone implants are safe for use in cosmetic surgery procedures. Each type of implant has received FDA approval and has been used in breast lift and augmentation surgeries for decades.
Saline implants consist of a silicone shell that is filled with a sterile salt water solution. If the implant ruptures, the body absorbs the solution with no side effects, and the implant deflates.
Silicone breast forms have a slightly higher risk of rupture. A ruptured silicone implant is often less noticeable than a saline rupture because the silicone gel remains in the surrounding tissue. Though silicone poses minimal risk to your health, it can cause some discomfort and inflammation in the breast tissue and must be surgically removed.
Consider Alternatives to Breast Reconstruction and Augmentation
Although breast reconstruction surgery is a safe procedure, there is another option for women with breast cancer who prefer not to undergo additional surgeries after their mastectomy.
A breast prosthesis and mastectomy bra can help you achieve a balanced, natural look. At A Fitting Experience Mastectomy Shoppe, we offer personalized professional breast form fittings with our BOC-certified fitters to help you find a prosthesis to suit your body shape, skin tone, and proportions.
Contact our friendly, compassionate team at A Fitting Experience Mastectomy Shoppe at (954) 978-8287 or browse our educational blog series for more information on your options after breast cancer.