Breast augmentation is the most common cosmetic surgery procedure, although women who’ve had a mastectomy as part of cancer treatment may also have breast augmentation (in which case it is classed as reconstructive surgery).
Breast augmentation involves placing implants into the breasts to make them appear larger or a different shape. The procedure is also known as having breast implants, a boob job, or a mammoplasty.
Women may decide to have breast implants for a number of reasons:
- To enlarge the breasts
- To enhance breast volume
- To correct a size difference
- To rebuild the breast after a mastectomy
What are breast augmentation implants?
Breast implants are made of either natural tissue or man-made materials, such as silicone gel or saline. Natural tissue implants are usually only used during reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy, as they have more associated complications and are a more complex procedure.
Implants can be inserted just underneath the breast tissue close to the surface of the skin, or placed underneath the muscle deeper inside the body. Both positions have advantages and disadvantages.
Silicone breast implants
Silicone gel breast implants consist of an elastic silicone bag or shell pre-filled with silicone gel. Many studies have been carried out into the safety of silicone gel breast implants, which show that there is no evidence to suggest an increased risk of cancer, connective tissue disease, arthritis, or other autoimmune diseases. Silicone gel breast implants have been used successfully for many years and tend to give a more natural look and feel than saline implants.
You may not be suitable for breast augmentation if:
- you are under the age of eighteen
- you have an infection of any kind
- you are pregnant
- your are breastfeeding
- you have malignant, or pre-malignant, breast cancer that has not been fully treated
Breastfeeding and implants
Having breast implants does not affect your ability to breastfeed, and there is no evidence to show that silicone leaks into the milk. If you are planning to breastfeed at some point in the future you should discuss this with your consultant as it could affect how the operation is performed (for example, entry points and implant positioning).
Breast screening and implants
Breast implants can obscure the view when you have a mammogram. A mammogram is an x-ray screening method for breast cancer, and you should tell your sonographer if you have breast implants so they can decide the best method for screening.
How long do implants last?
Breast implants very rarely last for life. It’s common to have to change them two or three times, or sometimes more often. Depending on individual circumstances, your implants can last for up to fifteen to twenty years, but many women find they have to be changed at around ten years. Some implants break down, wear out, become dislodged, or other complications develop.