Breast cancer

Breast Cancer Survivors: You Don't Have to Live with Unsatisfactory Implants

Among breast cancer patients who opt for breast reconstruction, 80% undergo implant-based breast reconstruction. Studies by implant manufacturers, however, show that within three years, three out of four breast reconstruction patients with implants will experience at least one complication, such as pain, infection, hardening, or the need for additional surgery. Many women live with chronic implant problems, or else they undergo multiple operations to adjust or replace their implants with new implants in the hope of improving their implant-based breast reconstruction. There is a risk of cosmetic and health problems in the first few years, and the risks increase over time. Implants aren’t expected to last forever. Most have a ten-year warranty although many will have to be removed before that. But women should know that there are alternatives to replacing failed implants that will give them a more natural result and a long-lasting solution.”

Since implants are foreign bodies, they can cause various problems: Many women find that that their implants feel hard and look unnatural, or that they’ve lost all feeling in the breast, or that their breasts are distorted and asymmetrical. Further complications include infection; rupture; capsular contracture, in which scar tissue forms around the implant and becomes hard and painful; and extrusion, in which the implant erodes through the skin. All of these problems are exacerbated by radiation treatment, which is considered a relative contraindication to implants. In general, implants problems can be resolved by removing the implant with the entire surrounding capsule and repairing any muscle or skin around it. When faced with the prospect of multiple repeated surgeries that are often required to remove and replace an implant throughout a lifetime, a woman should consider the alternative – surgery that creates a breast from her own tissue, a permanent breast that is also natural.

Multiple studies have shown that any breast reconstruction that uses the body’s own tissue, known as autologous tissue reconstruction, provides higher levels of patient satisfaction over the long term compared to implants. Since it is made of your own tissue, the restored breast is soft, warm, and behaves just like any other part of your body, growing or shrinking as you gain or lose weight, for example. If nerves are reconnected, the breasts can even regain sensation. Autologous tissue breast reconstruction has been around for a while, but older procedures sacrificed muscle to rebuild the breast. New advances have made it unnecessary to sacrifice muscle from the donor site to create a new breast. Preserving muscle enables faster recovery and means a woman can maintain muscle strength over the long term.