To help women with breast implants better understand the importance of replacing or removing them over time, it helps to think of how breast implants wear down like tires.
- Tires have tread that wears down, and breast implants have shells that wear down.
- Tread-worn tires put you at risk for crashes and blow outs, and aging breast implants put you at risk for increasing complications and ruptures.
- Tires need regular replacing, as do breast implants. Though not all women with breast implants know this, current recommendations now suggest replacing them every 10 years.
Related Post: Wait…what? My breast implants aren’t lifetime devices?
Though breast implants and tires both need monitoring, tires come out way ahead.
The differences between how breast implants and tires are monitored “drive home” the need to do things better when it comes to breast implants. For example, when you buy tires, you’re told how many miles you can reasonably expect to put on them, based on performance tests in the field. In the interim, they have handy little tread wear bars so you can keep an eye on them and know when they reach the legal limit for safe driving. Because redundancy is always a great idea when it comes to safety, mechanics also check your tires’ tread, no matter what service you are receiving.
It’s rather different with breast implants.
- There’s no discussion about your implants’ age at your regular check-ups. Most doctors don’t even ask if you have breast implants.
- Your implants can’t be visually inspected like tires, and they certainly don’t have a useful feature like tread wear bars.
- Breast implants aren’t field-tested like tires. Instead, assurances are often made about their durability, based on the stability of their materials outside a woman’s body, or based on relatively short follow-up studies. Not surprisingly, those assurances don’t translate well to how implants hold up in a woman’s body overtime. Explant surgeons routinely remove breast implants that are degraded, liquified, ruptured, and contaminated.
- You can’t immediately tell when a silicone gel implant has ruptured. They “silently rupture” and stay within the scar tissue capsule that surrounds your implant. With tires, if you get a flat, you know it.
To address this concern, women with breast implants are told to screen for ruptures and complications every few years. The problem is that those procedures only alert women of a rupture after the fact, and they require expensive diagnostic imaging that may not be covered by health insurance. And because screening is optional, women don’t always follow through, especially if it’s costly, inconvenient, or intimidating in any way.
It’s easy to attribute the differences in safety monitoring to how tires can be seen.
But what if there’s more to it? Is it possible that tires have tread bars, field testing, zealous mechanics, and legalized limits of wear because worn out tires create threats of crashes with other cars, vehicular homicides, and costly property damage? Maybe tire tread was recognized as an easy way to keep insurance costs lower and the public safer.
So much is unknown about women with breast implants, including the public health impact resulting from aging breast implants in the bodies of millions of women. What if we knew the complete picture of how breast implants impact women’s bodies, relationships, mental and emotional well-being, and financial stability. Perhaps when that is known, breast implant monitoring will be on par with tires.
Until that time, one way to improve the wellbeing of women with breast implants is simply for health providers to routinely ask women if they have breast implants, and then ensure those who do also understand the need to replace or remove them every 10 years or so. Although that may not have the same impact as preventing car crashes and property damage, it could change the health outcomes for countless women who don’t know or understand that breast implants wear down like tires and will eventually rupture.