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A breast implant is a silicone shell filled with either silicone gel or a salt-water solution known as saline. This is a good option for women who do not require radiation therapy for their breast cancer treatment. It also may be easier to control the final size of the breast with implant reconstruction in some cases.
What type of breast implant will my surgeon recommend?
If your surgeon recommends the use of an implant, you should discuss what type of implant should be used. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of silicone gel breast implants since 2006. There are both risks and benefits for undergoing breast reconstruction with silicone breast implants, and you will receive a detailed patient brochure to educate you on these.
The alternative saline-filled implant, a silicone shell filled with salt water, is also available if you choose. Currently, shaped or “tear-drop” silicone implants are not FDA approved. As more information becomes available, these FDA guidelines may change.
What are the disadvantages of using a breast implant?
If an implant is used, there is a remote possibility that an infection will develop, usually within the first two weeks following surgery. In some of these cases, the implant may need to be removed for several months until the infection clears. A new implant can later be inserted.
When radiation is needed, the risk of capsular contracture and deformity of the breast increases. Capsular contracture occurs if the scar or capsule around the implant begins to tighten. Capsular contracture can be treated in several ways, and sometimes requires either removal or scoring of the scar tissue. In rare situations, the skin around the implant may break down and expose the implant, requiring its removal. Recent literature suggests that 60 percent of women who have had radiation and implant-based reconstruction will have some difficulty with implants in radiated breasts over time. In this setting, our patients often select flap reconstruction in order to avoid these risks.