Have you (or someone you know well) had breast implants removed?
April 13, 2015 2:05 PM   Subscribe

I have had silicone implants since having breast cancer about 5 years ago. I'm considering having them removed and would be interested in hearing others' experience.

I have a consultation with a plastic surgeon scheduled for a few weeks from now, but I'd be interested in hearing from real people, or people who know real people, while I'm thinking about my options.

My issues are, first, that my breasts are not symmetrical, which was my number one priority when I had the implants done. Second, the breast that had the lumpectomy is just misshapen enough to disturb my sense of aesthetics. It looks fine in clothes, but my PCP has confirmed that it looks to her too like it's the wrong shape, so it's not in my head. Finally, I think they are slightly too big.

I don't know what would happen if I had them removed. Would my breasts look even more misshapen? How much scarring would there be? Would a lift be required? Would they look anything like they did prior to all the surgeries? I'm also giving consideration to stepping down in size. It was a pretty big lumpectomy so either way I would probably keep some implant in my affected breast.

In your experience, either direct or indirect from a good friend or relative, does it seem like women who have implants removed are happier with the result? (I don't count celebrities in this question, because celebrities are apparently using plastic surgeons that are far out of my league money-wise and somehow don't have the problems that I've had with my implants)
posted by janey47 to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The answers are these questions are unique to every individual -- you really just need to go in to a plastic surgeon and get a consult. Also the techniques are changing very rapidly. What was standard 5 years ago is not standard now. (I say this as someone newly diagnosed with breast cancer and consulting with surgeons).

Also, you may have insurance coverage for your surgery. State laws vary, but reconstruction is required of most insurance after a breast cancer diagnosis. Even if you are fixing a reconstruction from several years ago, it might possibly be covered. This is another reason to get into a doctor's office for a consult - they should have people that can help you figure that out.
posted by pantarei70 at 2:37 PM on April 13, 2015

Response by poster: Although this is off topic, since the issue was raised, I think that the State laws are more or less preempted by the federal Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act.
posted by janey47 at 3:07 PM on April 13, 2015

Best answer: I work for a plastic surgeon who specializes in breast augmentation (though not reconstruction.) Did you have radiation? This makes a significant difference in the aesthetic outcome in the reconstruction cases I've seen. Irradiated tissue does not seem to heal as well regardless of the length of time between treatment and reconstruction.

In the implant removal cases I've seen, the breast usually reverts back to the original shape (post-lumpectomy in your case obviously.) I will assume you don't have a large implant (300 cc's or less?), so you probably wouldn't have significant distortion from that factor. The surgeon should be able to use your original incision so there should not be any other scarring, unless you need a lift. Whether or not you'll need a lift, and the type of lift you might need, will depend on your anatomy and the preferences of your surgeon. Some women have their implants removed, wear a compression binder for 3 months and then have a lift performed - this way your skin/tissue shrinks back as close as possible to your original shape, and you may need a less extensive lift. Some women can have the lift at the same time as the implant removal; this depends on the amount of tissue and degree of ptosis (sagging) you have. Some women just have the implants removed and are happy with how their breasts look. I think just keeping 1 implant would look odd but I'm not sure about the protocol; 2 different sized implants make more sense to me. If you would like to downsize, consider that as you decrease the volume of the implants you also decrease the width, so this will affect the cleavage area and will increase the gap between your breasts.

Go to multiple consultations and ask to see photos of the surgeon's work. Best of luck to you and feel free to memail me.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 3:26 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had saline in 2000 which ruptured in 2007 and were replaced with high profile overfilled salines (390, ffs, why) which have led to my current state of level 4 capsular contraction.

I am having them removed next week. The removal will include a bilateral capsulectomy (google if you dare, photos are unpleasant) after the implant removal. THis will get rid of all the disfiguring scar tissue that is causing me the pain and ridiculous missile-like pointyness. I'm having them replaced with low profile silicone textured implants which supposedly reduce the risk of further capsular contractions.

If I was going to leave them implantless then yes, I would need to get a lift, due to the overfilled size. A friend of mine who had hers removed with no lift was so unhappy with the results that she ended up getting new implants which were larger than the old ones (325 to 390), which tbh I think was a big mistake but whatevs.

It is not unusual to have differently-sized implants; mine were initially slightly different sized but after the first switch (the ruptured one was in me for at least a month and there was a lot of damaged tissue to remove, luckily it was from the one that was larger initially) they've been the same size.

Scarring will depend on your own skin tone and the location(s) of the incision(s). How do the scars look from the initial implants?
posted by poffin boffin at 3:49 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Would they look anything like they did prior to all the surgeries?

I have no experience with breast augmentation, but I can tell you that I did have a breast reduction--which is relatively low-intervention compared to what you have had and will have done--and my breasts really don't look anything at all like they did prior to the surgery (which is a good thing, for the most part, but took a little while for me to get used to).

They also don't look anything like they did before my pregnancy, during which and subsequent to, I went up 4 cup sizes. I was a 36C before pregnancy and I'm a 36 C now, but the shape of my breasts and the nipple shape and placement is completely different. They are also not perfectly symmetrical, so bear in mind that my not be corrected as well as you would hope--sisters, not twins. They were symmetrical prior to surgery, but I had a complication on one side during healing so they have settled differently.

I spent a lot of time in the forums of http://www.breasthealthonline.org/ before my surgery and it was extremely helpful. I'm sure there are lots of women there who can answer your questions. I can't remember if it costs to join or just to have access to their image gallery, but either way, it was $5 or $10 well-spent. (That's where the sisters, not twins analogy comes from.)
posted by looli at 7:09 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

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