Are women who had breast enhancement at ages 20-30, still happy with the results as they age?
October 13, 2012 5:33 PM   Subscribe

I need information on the long term satisfaction of women who have have had breast augmentation.

Thorough internet searching finds very little on the long term, meaning 10, 20, 30 years post op. There is advice on being prepared for future surgeries, but no statistics on how many women need replacement, or correction of capsular constriction, or other corrections. The sites from the surgery centers and physicians do not include comments from patients who are not happy with their results, and never include comments from older women with long ago implants. Are they as happy after twenty years as they seem to be on the physician reviews and the "new breasts blogs?" Also frequently encountered are the very unhelpful "breast surgery disaster" sites, with horror stories of people who developed auto immune diseases, or vague illnesses. These blogs by the unfortunate few who might have gone on to develop these diseases whether they had breast enhancement or not, are specifically unhelpful. If you can refer me to sites that include statistics/information on how many replacements a woman is likely to need; on how pleased in the long term the patient is; on what it is like to be 50 and have the breasts of a 30 year old; and how many women are still actually glad they had the surgery as they get older. If you can answer these questions form personal experience please do.
posted by woman to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think the statistic is that all silicon implants need to be replaced after 6-7 years; and a lot of women will decide after two surgeries that they're going to quietly retire the silicon.

Satisfaction depends on technique as well as the skill of the surgeon. There is a huge range of training when it comes to surgeons who will perform implants. I would be very, very careful to actually get a plastic surgeon who has done a fellowship in breast augmentation rather than "cosmetic surgery" which is very, very vague and can mean a lot of different things.

There are a lot of potential downsides and risks with any surgery. Make sure you're okay with losing nipple sensation and prepared for the slightly more rare event of infection, the silicon leaking or migrating.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 5:40 PM on October 13, 2012

I can only answer this based on what my mother told me about her own breast augmentation, which she had done after my younger brother was born in '84. Despite being very attractive, she had a somewhat critical mother who valued looks above all else and a husband who wasn't very demonstrative in his affections. My mother, who is my closest friend, did not admit to me that she had any surgery until maybe five years ago, at which point she broke down in tears about it.

My mother's a great feminist who's taught me to be proud of my own body, no matter its shape, and who made what she feels was an enormous mistake at age 32. She has scars that embarrass her, and now that she's gained a little bit of weight, she feels that her larger breasts make her look top-heavy. She finds them physically uncomfortable and thinks that they look obviously fake now that she's 62. A couple of years ago, she found that the implants were disintegrating and that she could either have them removed and have deformed breasts forever or have new silicone implanted. It was incredibly demeaning for her to make a decision that she felt was entirely vain and had nothing to do with her overall health. She feels like a hypocrite for telling her friends and daughter that they're beautiful at any healthy size while she was swayed by the media and unrealistic expectations. I'm sure my father and her best friend were the only ones who knew the truth for years. It really tore her up.

Again, my mom's implants were done in 1984 and things are, I'm sure, very different now, but I can tell you that the long-term effect the implants had on her self esteem was painful and negative. She's so much more ashamed of having gotten them than she was ashamed of her figure beforehand.
posted by pineappleheart at 5:54 PM on October 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

I had my silicone implants in '84 when I was about 17. I'm 44 now have mixed feelings. I do look better in my clothes, but:

The implants were surrounded by scar tissue and hardened within a few months.
I lost most of the feeling in my breasts.
I have to "declare" them at mammograms and doctor's visits and at the mammograms, I have to sign a waiver saying that I won't sue if the mammo machine causes them to burst.

Now that I'm 44, I would tell the 17-year-old me that it isn't worth it.

Good luck to you.
posted by michellenoel at 6:15 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I obviously don't speak from direct experience, but my ex had implants 10 years ago, purposely had them smaller than her surgeon recommended, still has them in her mid 40s, has no issues other than reduced feeling in her nipple, and is still happy in that they still serve the purpose she got them in the first place. She went from being pretty flat to being either a B or C with the knowledge that she would want to look reasonable as she aged.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:05 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I work for a plastic surgeon who specializes in breast augmentation. Please keep in mind that women who have currently had breast implants for 30 years have a completely different implant and more than likely underwent a different surgical technique than is currently used.

The silicone used now is a cohesive gel, which stays in place if a rupture occurs, unlike the previous implants which had a honey-like consistency. There are no recommendations from the FDA on replacement as they physically don't leak, even if a rupture occurs. BTW the rupture rate for silicone and saline is now about 2% over every 10 years and the rate with liquid silicone was 50% over 10 years.

The rates of complications (capsular contracture and bottoming out being the most common) is around 10%. A skilled surgeon will avoid the milk ducts and nerves in the nipple and you are unlikely to experience a lack of sensitivity or have difficulty breast-feeding.

This all being said - gravity always wins and even though your implants may stay in place for 20 years, your breast tissue won't. If you have a significant amount of tissue already, eventually you will most likely want a lift and implant replacement. Breast augmentation is not really intended to be a once-in-a-lifetime surgery.

I definitely recommend seeing an ASPS-certified surgeon and asking about incision sites, his rates of loss of sensitivity, capsular contracture, and bottoming out, and his policy on revisions if complications occur. Make sure you see lots of before and after photos. I think it's best to have surgery in a hospital rather than a surgery suite because in the former you will have a board-certified anesthesiologist or CRNA.

I have lots more info, memail me if you like.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 8:14 PM on October 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks to all, for helpful comments. I am still looking for references to data on the number of repeat surgeries, or the recommendation for repeat surgeries, even if not acted on. I do realize that materials and techniques have advanced over the years. My additional question is "are women still as happy after 10-20 years as they appear to be at first?" The effusive praises on the physicians websites are automatically suspect as they never include unhappy patients, nor those with 10 or more years post op hindsight.
posted by woman at 1:14 PM on October 14, 2012

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