When talking with a woman who has breast implants, I nearly always ask if she knows her breast implants aren’t lifetime devices. Though some do, most don’t.
This trend holds true in large online groups where women connect around issues like breast implant illness or breast implant removal. Women in my practice and these groups consistently report being told they could “keep their implants for life”.
When I got breast implants in 2006, I specifically asked about their longevity and stability because I didn’t like the idea of undergoing another surgery when I was decades older. I was told I could keep them for life unless something traumatic, like a car crash, caused one to rupture.
Imagine my surprise 12 years later, while consulting with doctors to explore a sudden shape change in one of my breasts, when I was repeatedly told: “It’s time to replace them. They should be changed every 10 – 15 years.”
Wait…what? How did I not get that important memo?
I can’t say how many of the millions of women with breast implants know their breast implants aren’t lifetime devices. It’s unknown how many women realize that all breast implant shells degrade, that aging breast implants eventually rupture, and that breast implants need to be replaced like tires on their vehicle. (See my other blog highlighting the important similarities and differences between breast implants and tires.)
But I can say a lot about the moment of realizing your implants are not lifetime devices. Everything slows down for a drawn out pause while you register the enormity of your situation.
Learning your breast implants aren’t lifetime devices can feel like the “stages” of grief:
- Denial as your mind tries to defend against this possibility, dismissing the notion, clinging to what you were told, and thinking you’ll be the exception.
- Anger as you wonder if you were deliberately misled.
- Deal-making as you promise you’ll stop doing chest presses at the gym, or you’ll pay for breast MRIs instead of mammograms, or you’ll once and for all stop laying on your stomach.
- Sadness over how this impacts you physically, socially, financially, emotionally, and mentally; regret that you didn’t know what you were signing up for and that there’s nothing you can do about it now.
- Acceptance as you slowly come to terms with the reality that, at some point, the implants resting in your body will eventually, or urgently, need to be replaced or removed.
Taking to heart that breast implants aren’t lifetime devices
If you once thought your breast implants were lifetime devices, please know that you are not alone. Other women whose lives are impacted by breast implants continue to shed light on their experiences of receiving incomplete, inaccurate, or inappropriate informed consent prior to their procedure. There are significant efforts underway by breast implant safety advocates to ensure women who augment or reconstruct with breast implants go into the procedure fully informed. These efforts yield helpful resource creation like the FDA’s List of Things to Consider Before Getting Breast Implants.
For help with coming to terms with this, and the myriad of other overlooked and trivialized experiences you may deal with as a woman with breast implants, please visit my private Facebook group Breast Implant Through Explant Inner Companions. It’s an agenda-free space. Joining it doesn’t mean you’re ready to explant. You are welcome, no matter where you are on your journey, no matter why you have breast implants, and no matter what decisions you make. We explore all aspects of these journeys: relationship impacts, emotional struggles, mental traps, self-acceptance, and of course, preparing yourself holistically for breast-related surgery.