Following a mastectomy, you have many decisions to make. It can feel overwhelming, especially if breast reconstruction surgery is soon to follow. If so, one of those decisions will be which type of breast implant to choose.
There are both benefits and risks inherent with the different types of breast implants used for reconstruction after breast cancer treatment. Learning about each one can help you make a more informed choice while understanding what’s involved in the overall process.
The goal of breast implants is to rebuild or reshape one or both breasts following your surgery. They can add both volume and size or change the overall size and shape of the breasts. Still, another reason to consider breast implants is to shape or enhance a remaining breast to match the symmetry of the newly constructed one.
If you’re currently considering silicone breast implants and trying to decide if they are for you, it is important to become familiar with breast implants in general. From there, weigh the differences and determine whether the silicone option is your best choice.
What is a Breast Implant?
A breast implant is essentially a round or teardrop-shaped flexible shell filled with either saline (saltwater) or a silicone gel.
During breast reconstruction, either a breast implant or tissue expander is placed first. This can happen immediately following your mastectomy or delayed until a later date, depending on your circumstances and recovery timeline.
The implant is either placed over the top of the chest muscle or underneath it. When placed in front of the muscle, a special tissue known as an acellular dermal matrix holds the insert in place. Eventually, your body will replace that tissue with collagen.
Are Breast Implants a Good Choice?
While many women choose to have a breast reconstruction, some patients are not eligible for the procedure. A suitable candidate for breast reconstruction surgery should:
- Have enough healthy natural breast tissue and skin to support and completely cover the implants once inserted.
- Not require further radiation therapy, which can cause issues with your reconstruction and breast skin.
If not, or you want more information on what other options are available besides reconstruction surgery with implants, discuss your options with your surgeon and consider visiting A Fitting Experience Mastectomy Shoppe. Our highly experienced staff can help you determine if a non-surgical option, such as a breast prosthesis, is a better match for you.
Types of Breast Implants
Breast implants come in various shapes and sizes, and their surfaces are either smooth or textured. Whatever your body contours may be, you can most likely find a breast implant solution to help create natural-looking breasts after your surgery.
The outer shell of breast implants consists of thin, flexible silicone. The inside can be either saline (saltwater) or silicone gel. Knowing the difference between the two allows you to make the best choice for your body and preferences.
The saline implants are shells filled with saltwater, which is a natural substance. For the surgery, your plastic surgeon inserts the shells into your body, then fills them up with the saltwater until reaching your chosen volume. One advantage of saline implants is you are not limited to a fixed size. This can be especially beneficial to those looking to match natural breast size.
One potential downside to saline breast implants is they create firmer breasts, which may feel less natural to the touch.
Silicone implants are pre-filled with a silicone gel before insertion. One advantage to choosing these implants is that they feel more natural. However, they do come in more limited size options and pose more of a risk to your health in case of punctures or rupture.
The newer type of silicone implant is called cohesive gel or “gummy bear” implants. These are thicker forms of silicone implants that hold their shape even without the shell casing and are less risky for rupture.
Are Breast Implants Safe? Silicone vs. Saline Implants
Saline breast implants are deemed relatively safe. No MRI screening is required to detect a rupture, as your breast will deflate if one occurs. Since saline is natural saltwater, your body will absorb any leakage without harm.
While silicone breast implants are Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for safe use, the silicone cannot be absorbed by your body, leading to the formation of scar tissue and granulomas. Unfortunately, silicone ruptures are often not detected until you experience symptoms such as pain, nausea, and fever.
Healthcare experts recommend that women with silicone implants have routine imaging to screen for a silent rupture. A silent rupture doesn’t usually produce noticeable symptoms, and an MRI is required for detection.
The danger of a silent rupture is that silicone gel may leak into the body and spread to different areas, such as the lungs or lymph nodes. If a silent rupture is confirmed, the silicone breast implant is usually removed by the plastic surgeon.
There are unique signs you can look out for when a rupture of either type of breast implant occurs. These include:
- Change in breast size or shape
- Increasing pain or swelling
- Noticeable increasing firmness of breast
With the insertion of either of these implant types, fibrous scar tissue can form around it, creating a protective capsule. The capsule itself is soft or a little firm, keeping the implant where it needs to be. However, some women develop a hard and dense tissue capsule that tightens around the implant, squeezing it to the point to cause chronic pain and even distort the breast shape. Called capsular contracture, it can also cause the breast to sit higher on your chest.
Those who go through radiation therapy are susceptible to capsular contracture. There are other potential reasons as well, including rupture of the implant.
For either type of implant, saline or silicone, there is also a chance of breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma linked to those implants with textured surfaces.
Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a rare type of immune system cancer, develops in the scar tissue capsule and surrounding fluid of a breast implant. It is most often curable when diagnosed early, followed by timely treatment.
Should You Choose Silicone Breast Implants?
Should you choose silicone breast implants over saline ones? This is a decision you’ll need to make based on conversations with your breast cancer doctor and your plastic surgeon.
A plastic surgeon can recommend the best implant for your particular body type and consider your personal preferences. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, nipple reconstruction may even be possible during plastic surgery if you choose.
The silicone breast implants often provide a better outcome for those undergoing breast reconstruction surgeries, creating more natural-looking and feeling breasts.
Learn More at A Fitting Experience Mastectomy Shoppe
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with choices before or after your breast cancer surgery, call us at (954)-978-8287 or stop by our specialty shop for additional information. Our compassionate and knowledgeable staff will work with you to determine if a non-surgical option is right for you.