This is a question that I get on a daily basis. Women with aging implants are often confused about what they should be doing to care for their implants and are often concerned with when the implants will need to be exchanged or removed. There are a lot of “urban myths” surrounding the long-term safety and care of breast implants.
Below are 3 takeaway tips if you have implants of any age:
- SELF-BREAST EXAM – All women, regardless of their implant status should be doing a monthly self-breast exam. Women with implants should be specifically aware of hardening of their implants after about 10 years, implants that are changing in shape or position and/or implants that are becoming increasingly more uncomfortable. All of these could be signs of capsular contracture.
- BREAST IMAGING – Women should get a yearly mammogram starting at age 40 and women with a strong family history of breast cancer may need to have their first mammogram earlier. However, women with breast implants should get a breast MRI about every 5 years to look for an implant rupture.
- FOLLOW–UP WITH A BOARD-CERTIFIED PLASTIC SURGEON – The most important thing for women with implants is that you should be seeing a board-certified plastic surgeon on a regular basis. Problems with implants, even a rupture, can often be diagnosed with a good physical exam by a plastic surgeon with extensive breast implant experience. Additionally, there is new implant technology that you may be interested in learning about during your visit. For example, women that had silicone breast implants placed 10-years ago most likely had 4th generation breast implants. The new 5th generation breast implants, also known as “gummy-bear” implants are made of a more cohesive silicone. As a result, we see lower rupture rates and lower rates of capsular contracture associated with the newer implants. To read more about the Safety of Breast Implants, click here.
I often see patients that have changing breast goals after 10 years. Women that had a breast augmentation in their 20s may not want the same size breasts as they get older. It is not uncommon to downsize implants or remove the implants altogether. The decision to remove implants is a personal one. Read more about options for breast implant removal.
There are other reasons, aside from problems with the hardened implants, that women may consider a revision breast augmentation. At 10 years, many women have had significant changes in their breast tissues (breasts start to droop off of the implant, especially after breastfeeding) and will benefit from revision breast augmentation or a breast lift with exchange of implants.
In summary, if you have implants that are 10 years old or older, it’s time to consult with a board-certified cosmetic breast surgeon to discuss your options. It may be that your implants are just fine and nothing needs to be done. You owe it to yourself to know your options.