Busting 5 Common Myths About Breast Implants

May 04, 2017

A recent report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons shows that breast augmentation is the most popular type of plastic surgery, but there are several misconceptions surrounding the procedure. Sidhbh Gallagher, M.D., a plastic surgeon with Indiana University Health, clears them up and explains what you can expect from surgery.

Myth: The bigger the implants, the better.

Fact: There’s a lot more to consider than personal preference when you choose your implants. “Your chest can only accommodate a certain size of implant depending on how wide it is,” Dr. Gallagher says. “If you choose implants that are too large, they may go off to the side or will be too visible under your skin.”

A dramatic change in size can also increase your risk of complications, including the formation of scar tissue that distorts the shape of the implant (capsular contracture.) “Very large implants can also lead to something called ‘bottoming out,’ where the implant slips beneath the fold line under your breasts where they meet your chest,” Dr. Gallagher explains. The nipple may tilt up upward as the implant sags, creating an unnaturally long distance between the fold line and the nipple. So while the size you choose is ultimately up to you, it’s best to stick to the recommendation your doctor will give you based on your measurements.

Myth: Implants always look fake.

Fact: Besides choosing moderately sized implants, opting for silicone implants over saline ones can help ensure more realistic results. “Silicone has a more natural look and feel, and you’re less likely to see any rippling of the implant under your skin,” Dr. Gallagher says. Placement matters too: Most surgeons will insert implants beneath the chest muscle because it helps hide the upper part of the implant. This also makes it easier for doctors to read your mammograms.

Myth: Silicone implants are dangerous

Fact: While the FDA did ban them in 1992 over concerns that leaking silicone could trigger autoimmune conditions, researchers never found an association, and silicone implants returned to the market in 2006. Still, those who choose silicone implants need to take extra caution. “Because ruptures of silicone implants are hard to detect, the FDA now advises people get an MRI three years after augmentation and every two years after that to make sure the implants are still intact,” Dr. Gallagher says. (Ruptures of saline implants are obvious because the breast will flatten.)

The most serious concern now is an apparent link between textured implants (which are less likely to cause capsular contraction than smooth ones) and a type of cancer called anaplastic large-cell lymphoma. “Fortunately, this is extremely rare, and treatment is usually limited to removing the implant and the tissue around it,” Dr. Gallagher says.

Myth: My breasts will always look perky if I get implants.

Fact: Breasts are always subject to the effects of aging, pregnancy, and weight changes, implants or not. And implants aren’t a fix for sagging breasts. “Many women come to me with this complaint and ask for implants when what they really need is a breast lift,” Dr. Gallagher says. “Implants alone only help with sagging if you don’t have much droopiness to begin with.”

Myth: Breast implants last a lifetime.

Fact: While they don’t come with an expiration date, you won’t have them forever: Twenty percent of women who get breast implants have to have them removed within 10 years. “The longevity is a lot better in the new generation of implants, but I still tell my patients that when they get them, they’re basically buying a future surgery,” Dr. Gallagher says. Reasons for removal include capsular contraction, rupture, and bottoming out.

-- By Jessica Brown

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