New Study Potentially Shows Breast Implant Illness is Real. Should I Take Mine Out?

Faced with cancer or possibly even death, a writer contemplates a risky explant surgery, as new study validates BII.

This article was originally published on Oct. 13, 2022, and has been updated to reflect the findings of a new study in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal

“Have you thought about taking those implants out?” That question was posed to me several months ago by Manhattan plastic surgeon Dr. Nevin Golkalp, while I was visiting her office for some routine Botox and lip filler. Somehow, the conversation turned from wrinkles to my breasts.

“No, I’m good” I replied. But the truth is, with my aging implants pushing 20 years old, I had thought about it. Recent Facebook scrolls alerted me to several friends going back under the knife to take theirs out, and chatters of Breast Implant Illness, or BII, had me intrigued. I’d even joined approximately 10,000 other women in a Facebook group aptly titled “Breast Implant Illness” even though I had no symptoms myself.

I was curious, to say the least. Here, in this public forum, women from all over the world lamented about nearly every symptom under the sun—from hair loss to acne, migraines, chronic joint pain and even trouble breathing—attributing nearly all of these symptoms to their breast implants.

Some claimed to have been “misdiagnosed” with fibromyalgia and other disorders and said their doctors had called them crazy. Others posted photos of themselves post-explant surgery, saying their symptoms had all magically disappeared once the saltwater or silicone gel-filled sacs were gone.

Now, a groundbreaking new study is finally supporting their claims. The study, published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, showed that 94% of patients indeed showed improvement in systemic symptoms after removal of their breast implants. 

It was completed by The Aesthetic Society and The Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation (ASERF), and included other disturbing findings such as low but measurable levels of some heavy metals in implant capsules.

Breast implant’s link to cancer is growing

Maybe these women are not so crazy after all. The FDA has now officially linked two types of cancers to breast implants. The first is a type of lymphoma and the latest is squamous cell carcinoma, or SCC, which is a cancer of the scar tissue or capsule that forms around the implant.

There are approximately 1,200 confirmed cases of lymphoma-based cancers and 16 confirmed cases of SCC out of about 35 million women with breast implants worldwide. To make it even more complicated, lymphoma was reported mostly in women with textured implants, while SCC has been reported with both textured and smooth implants.

While the medical community has yet to adequately study the women reporting adverse symptoms that they claim are connected to their breast implants, many women are heading to their surgeon’s offices in droves to explant. In fact, 25% of silicone patients and 8% of saline patients have had their implants removed, according to the National Center for Health ResearchShould I be one of them?

I asked my husband his opinion first, to which he replied “I’d rather have you be here for our kids, and not get cancer, than keep your implants in.” My mom and sister agreed, but surgery for me is not without risks. In my 30s, I learned I had a genetic blood clotting disorder after a near-fatal pulmonary embolism landed me in the hospital for eight days. A subsequent DVT (or blood clot in my leg) forced me onto a regimen of blood thinners for life.

The thought of going under the knife again (and potentially bleeding to death or throwing another clot) terrified me. What if surgery took me out? Which risk was greater?

My decision to get breast implants

Jene Luciani SENA’S family
Jene Luciani Sena/Dollface Studios

The decision to get breast implants in the first place was not an easy one. I had developed as a teenager with something called Tubular Breast Deformity. I truly felt deformed, and it impacted me both mentally and emotionally during those formative years. I jokingly referred to them as my “mutant boobs,” although, for many years, I hid them from friends, boyfriends and my family members. No one knew I was shielding two very different-sized and shaped breasts under those baggy band tees and grunge flannels. (Hey, no judgment, it was the ’90s after all).

In 2000, after securing my first full-time job out of college at an NBC affiliate, I opted to have breast reconstruction, which involved placing saline implants in both breasts. Silicone implants were not an option at the time as they had been pulled off the market due to safety concerns in 1992.

Several years later, I suffered a complication with the implants known as capsular contracture, which forced me into my surgeon’s office yet again; except this time, after a 14-year ban, silicone implants were now approved and widely available. My surgeon advised me that silicone would be the better option and lower my risk of having the same complications. I agreed and went in for the surgery to swap the implants.

Now, 16 years later and faced with the possibility of yet another “boob job,” I’m exploring all my options. Even without the recent reports from the FDA, I’d always known this was a possibility. In the extensive paperwork you are required to sign prior to surgery, it does state that implants may not last forever.

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While many implants remain intact for 10 or even 20 years, the chance of rupture increases by 1% each year, according to This is the same, regardless of whether you have saline or silicone-filled implants, and women are reporting BII symptoms in both circumstances.

That said, it seems there are really only three options for me at this point:

1. Take the implants out (and most likely have a breast lift as well as adjust to life with much smaller breasts that likely won’t fit my 5’9” frame).
2. Take the implants out and replace them with a new pair.
3. Do nothing.

Option 3 is not just sitting back and ignoring that there might be a potential problem. Just like you should be doing regular breast self-exams to monitor for breast cancer, doctors say, you should check your implants regularly too.

You can check implants for a rupture with an MRI every two years (which aren’t always covered by insurance), and also with routine breast self-exams (which you should be doing anyway) to assess any possible risks.

“Monitor your breasts, or as we like to say, #feelthemonthefirst of each month to assess any changes,” explains Dr. Alexis Parcells, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon practicing in New Jersey, New York, California and Florida. “If you do notice any abnormal changes in breasts or implants, then consult with your doctor.” These changes could include swelling on one side, pain, redness, skin changes or any tightness in the tissue in and around the implant and/or the armpit area.

What doctors are saying

Dr. Payman Danielpour and Dr. John Layke of the Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery Group concur with Dr. Parcells, and agree that while patients should remain vigilant, overall, the risk is small. “It should be pointed out that only 16 cases have been reported of SCC in those with implants that are more than 20 years old,” the doctors say. “Furthermore, the risk of the other rare cancer reported, ALCL, is about one in every 86,000.” (The FDA issued a recall of one brand of textured implants in 2019 after 600 cases and 33 deaths were reportedly linked to them.)

All the doctors I spoke with agree that more research — like the recent study by The Aesthetic Society and The Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation (ASERF) — needs to be done. “It’s important to understand that these instances are very rare, and have been reported with all types of implants, not just breast implants,” says Andy Wongworawat M.D., a plastic surgeon practicing in California.

Taking it into our own hands

While reported cases may still be low, comparatively speaking, that hasn’t stopped several women from erring on the side of caution. Chrissy Teigen famously took her implants out.

Nikki Speer, a 43-year-old mom of three in North Carolina, is also one of them. After losing her mother to breast cancer, she wasn’t taking any chances herself. “About 8 or 9 years after my surgery to get silicone implants, I started having symptoms like migraines, joint pain, and unexplained pain and weight gain. For years, doctors ignored my claims because my blood work always came back normal. So I took matters into my own hands, researched breast implant illness and became my own advocate,” she says. Speer finally had them removed in December 2021 and is glad she did it. “I would never get implants again! I’m slowly healing and trust that one day, I’ll be completely healed.”

Andrea Mendocino Drace, a 43-year-old teacher in New York also opted to have her breast implants removed permanently. Within a year after getting saline implants, she began to have more than 40 symptoms, including diagnoses of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, anxiety and depression. “Doctors told me I was crazy. For years, I didn’t know what was wrong with me,” says Drace, a mother of two. After seeing several doctors, she finally figured out the culprit. “It was my implants all along. After taking them out in 2019, all my symptoms slowly started to go away,” she explains. “I would never put anything foreign in my body again. I’ve done a lot of work and have learned to love myself the way I am.”

These “girls” have been with me while I’ve birthed two children and “birthed” a career helping other women with all of their breast, boob and bra problems (through writing The Bra Book , which is now in its second printing). They’ve allowed me to look and feel “normal” since the age of 21. Since I don’t have any BII symptoms at the moment, and I’m being proactive with monitoring my breasts for any anomalies, I’m planning to keep mine in — for now.

If you’re considering getting breast implants yourself, take note of the risks and be sure to discuss them with a board-certified physician.

If you already have implants and are experiencing issues, the FDA encourages you to file a report through its MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program. By filing, you can provide information that helps improve patient safety.

Jené Luciani Sena
Jené Luciani Sena is an accredited journalist and internationally-renowned bestselling author, regularly seen on national TV outlets such as Access Daily, Today and Dr Oz. Touted as one of Woman’s World Magazine’s “Ultimate Experts,” she’s a TEDTalk speaker and a busy Mom of 4. Read more
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