Breast Implant Illness

Social media and the general press have recently featured news stories that suggest breast implants are responsible for a wide array of medical symptoms. The term “breast implant illness” has been created to refer to patients who have breast implants and a variety of symptoms that they attribute to those implants.   

What is Breast Implant Illness?

Breast Implant Illness is an imprecise term used in describing a broad range of signs and symptoms reported by some women with breast implants. Prior to the regulatory approvals of silicone breast implants in Canada and the United States in 2006, a vast body of scientific and medical information was reviewed in detail by several independent expert panels, including the Institute of Medicine (IOM).  The IOM committee included scientific and medical experts from a wide range of fields and was funded entirely by the agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The work of this committee culminated in the generation of a full-length report entitled Safety of Silicone Breast Implants as well as a booklet aimed at a lay audience “Information for Women about the Safety of Silicone Breast Implants.”  

The proponents of breast implant illness believe that breast implants cause significant harm.  The majority of proponents of BII are not physicians, scientists or researchers.  Most are well intentioned individuals who have personally experienced issues that they feel are related to their breast implants. 

Recently, some naturopathic practitioners have started to associate a diffuse number of health issues with breast implants and offer “testing” and nutritional supplementation to “treat” BII.  This testing and subsequent “treatment” can be quite costly to patients.  Currently, the scientific and medical indication for these tests and the subsequent proposed treatment regimen has not been proven. 

The proponents of breast implant illness have generated a broad list of symptoms that they have attributed to breast implants.  All of the conditions and symptoms listed have also been found in women that have never had breast implants, as well as in men.   

It is important to note that there are many different manufacturers of breast implants.  There are many different styles and shapes.  Implants can have a textured or smooth surface.  Implants can be filled with medical grade cohesive gel silicone or sterile saline.  Medical grade silicone is used in many medical implants and devices within medicine.  To date, the proponents of BII have not made any differentiation between different implant companies, styles, textures or content, but rather group all breast implants together as being the possible cause of BII. 

 

BII proponents propose that the following conditions and symptoms may be related to breast implants: 

  • FATIGUE
  • HEADACHES, MIGRANES AND OCULAR MIGRANES
  • BRAIN FOG, MEMORY LOSS
  • MUSCLE AND JOINT PAIN
  • SWOLLEN AND TENDER LYMPH NODES IN BREAST AREA, UNDERARM, THROAT, NECK, GROIN
  • ANXIETY, DEPRESSION AND PANIC ATTACKS
  • GENERAL CHEST DISCOMFORT SHORTNESS OF BREATH
  • POOR SLEEP AND INSOMNIA
  • HEART PALPITATIONS, CHANGES IN NORMAL HEART RATE OR HEART PAIN
  • FEELING LIKE YOU ARE DYING
  • SYMPTOMS OF FIBROMYALGIA
  • GENERAL CHEST DISCOMFORT SHORTNESS OF BREATH
  • LEAKY GUT, IBS AND SIBO
  • GASTROINTESTINAL ISSUES SUCH AS ACID REFLUX, GERD, GASTRITIS
  • PERSISTENT BACTERIAL, VIRAL, FUNGAL INFECTIONS
  • YEAST INFECTIONS, CANDIDA, SINUS AND UTI INFECTIONS
  • FEVERS, NIGHT SWEATS, INTOLERANT TO HEAT/COLD
  • HAIR LOSS, DRY SKIN AND HAIR
  • SKIN RASHES
  • HYPO/HYPER THYROID SYMPTOMS
  • HYPO/HYPER ADRENAL SYMPTOMS
  • PARATHYROID PROBLEMS
  • FREQUENT URINATION
  • NUMBNESS/TINGLING SENSATION IN UPPER AND LOWER LIMBS
  • PREMATURE AGING
  • WEIGHT PROBLEMS
  • INFLAMMATION
  • BODY ODOUR
  • DRY EYES, DECLINE IN VISION
  • HORMONE IMBALANCE, DIMINISHING HORMONES, EARLY MENOPAUSE
  • HYSTERECTOMY
  • LOW LIBIDO
  • SLOW HEALING, EASY BRUISING
  • THROAT CLEARING, COUGH, DIFFICULTY SWALLOWING, CHOKING, REFLUX
  • METALLIC TASTES
  • VERTIGO
  • PANCREATITIS
  • EAR RINGING
  • SUDDEN FOOD INTOLERANCE AND ALLERGIES
  • SLOW MUSCLE RECOVERY AFTER ACTIVITY
  • SORE AND ACHING JOINTS OF SHOULDERS, HIPS, BACKBONE, HANDS AND FEET
  • DEHYDRATION FOR NO REASON
  • COLD AND DISCOLORED LIMBS, HANDS AND FEET
  • PAIN AND OR BURNING SENSATION AROUND IMPLANT AND OR UNDERARM
  • LIVER AND KIDNEY DYSFUNCTION
  • GALLBLADDER PROBLEMS
  • TOXIC SHOCK SYMPTOMS
  • SYMPTOMS OF LYME DISEASE
  • SYMPTOMS OF EBV
  • SYMPTOMS OF AUTO-IMMUNE DISEASES SUCH AS; RAYNAUD’S SYNDROME, HASHIMOTO’S THYROIDITIS, RHEUMATOID
    ARTHRITIS, SCLERODERMA, LUPUS, SJOGREN’S SYNDROME, NONSPECIFIC CONNECTIVE TISSUE DISEASE, MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
  • SYMPTOMS OF BIA-ALCL LYMPHOMA
  • DIAGNOSIS OF CANCER

More Information

We would be pleased to discuss current medical and scientific information on BII with any patient who would like more information. 

Social media posts by BII proponents have suggested that patients who feel that they are suffering from BII should seek out a surgeon that can provide en-bloc removal of their breast implant and the surrounding breast capsule.  This procedure has been the standard treatment for Baker Grade III and Baker Grade IV capsule for decades.  En-bloc resection of breast implants with Grade I (normal / soft / thin / fragile capsules) is a more complicated procedure. The en-bloc resection procedure can be discussed in detail during consultation within the office.  

Removal of breast implants will result in volume loss and loss of projection of the breasts.  This aesthetic outcome is unacceptable to some women.  In addition, as with any procedure, there are associated risks to the en-bloc resection of breast implants and these risks may be not be acceptable to some patients. 

Some patients who have undergone removal of their implants and capsules have noted some improvement in their symptoms.  There are also patients who have undergone removal of their implants without noting any improvement in their symptoms. 

At the current time, there is no provincial coverage for surgical removal of breast implants that do not have a Grade III or Grade IV capsule and therefore the costs related to the surgical procedure, surgical facility fees and anaesthesia coverage are the responsibility of the patient.