Breast Implant Disease: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Breast Implant Disease
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Getting breast implants may seem to be a great idea, probably one of the best ideas one may have had in recent times. However, there are so many things that could go wrong with breast implants, and they could lead to what is known as breast implant sickness.

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Simply put, breast implant sicknesses are the sicknesses and diseases that are mostly caused due to the implantation of foreign objects used for breast enhancements. In recent years, many women have been known to experience diseases such as lupus, scleroderma, sclerosis and other types of diseases most especially after a breast implant surgery.

Generally, breast implants surgery has been known to be associated with signs such as scarring, pains in the breasts, infections, changes in the sensory pathway of the nerves supplying the breast region, leakage of the implants and so much more.

However, the world health organisation (W.H.O), as well as the U.S food and drug administration, have identified a particular great cause of concern which is known as breast-implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma(BIA-ALCL).

Scientists and researchers have not understood the exact reason why this disease occurs in a large number of women. There are two different types of implants known as the smooth implant and the textured implants.

Doctors have identified more problems coming from the surgery of the textured implants than from the surgery of the smooth implants. Scientists have cited the reason for this as the fact that bacteria can quickly form on the surface of the textured implants due to its large surface area.

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This bacteria formed can cause an infection which usually starts with a low-grade fever. This infection will then cause the release of a response from the immune system which more often than not results in the formation of BIA-ALCL.

Infections have been seen to be the most common cause of breast implant diseases. Besides infection, however, there are other complications gotten from the breast implant surgery, and they include: Severe loss of blood, Skin necrosis, Blood clots, Severe bruise, Slowed wound healing, Buildup of scar tissue, Deflation and rupture of the breast implant.

Other symptoms include; changes in the shape of the breast, changes in the volume of the breast, changes in the way the breast feels, thinning of the skin and tissues of the breasts, deposits of calcium found in the breast, nipple discharge, dropping of the implant out of the breast tissue, asymmetry and so on.

Symptoms of breast implant illness

Once there is the presence of the breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma(BIA-ALCL) in the breast, different breast tissues will surround it. However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t spread to other parts of your body including your lymph nodes. Remember, they are cells, and they can migrate if something isn’t right.

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The main symptoms one must experience when having breast implant sickness are:

  1. There will be continuous swelling or pain in the tissues around the breast implant. It doesn’t have to be due to the surgical incision. In fact, this pain and swelling are usually felt long after the surgical incision has healed. Most times, it can be felt many years after the breast implantation was done.
  2. There will be a massive build-up of fluid just around the tissues surrounding the breast implant.
  3. There will be something known as capsular contracture. Capsular contracture occurs when there is a lump of tissue under the skin or when there is a formation of the thick scar tissue under the breast implant.
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These are the three main symptoms that will be felt. However, there are other accompanying symptoms, and they can vary. Recall that we said earlier that the primary cause of this breast implant sickness is an infection.

Depending on the level of the infection and how well it has spread, that determines the accompanying symptoms that will be seen. However, the following symptoms have been seen to have plagued lots of women, and they include:

  1. Severe redness
  2. Inflammation and severe swelling
  3. Intense pain
  4. Discharges are gotten from the site of the breast implant.
  5. Change in the colour and size of the breast
  6. Severe fever

How then is the breast implant sickness diagnosed?

BIA-ALCL can be classified as T-cell lymphoma. This lymphoma usually occurs after the surgical implantation of the breasts implants. T-cell lymphoma is a type of lymphoma or cancer that develops right from your T-cells.

The T-cells are cells that are part of the immune system. Depending on how many of the T-cells are involved, the T-cell lymphoma can be either a rapidly growing cancer or a slowly progressing one.

Usually, breast implants must be changed between the first 8-10 years after implantation. However, some people may begin experiencing symptoms within 6-8years after implantation. Sometimes due to the facts that symptoms may vary among women, breast implant sickness can be very difficult to diagnose thereby making diagnosis non-specific and complicated.

If your doctor suspects you have the breast implant-associated anaplastic larger cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), he may ask you to run a variety of tests which could show or rule out other diseases by specific indications. These tests could include:

  1. An ultrasound-guided aspiration of fluid which would be collected from the tissues that are surrounding the breast implant. If there is an increased T-cell count in the fluid collected can alert the doctor that you may have the disease.
  2. Thick scarring just around the site of the breast implant can also alert your doctor to you having the breast implant disease.
  3. Once there is an abnormal breast mass found, your doctor can decide to take it for a baby scan to determine if the cells present are cancerous or not.
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Treatment

Once you begin to experience these symptoms, your doctor must be the first to know about it. After reporting to your doctor, your doctor might order for a pet scan in order to check for signs of lymphoma in other parts of your body. Remember, though this type of cancer might relatively be rare, however, they can be relatively fast and very aggressive.

You might eventually be required to remove the implants and treat the underlying symptoms if the disease isn’t at an advanced stage.

Breast Implant Disease
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Deborah Akinola
Wirter, poet and public speaker
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