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BII Symptoms and Guide: Is Breast Implant Illness Myth or Science?

Breast Implant Illness (BII) refers to many symptoms that some patients believe have a direct causal connection to their breast implants. As of yet, BII is not officially recognized by the global medical community for use in diagnosis. And the lack of official recognition has produced some contradicting and confusing narratives amongst the public.

It is essential to separate the facts from the myths behind BII symptoms to make an educated decision about your body. Learn about the differences between BII, BIA-ALCL, and breast cancer connected to implants. See the current state of official findings and discover where BII’s facts and fictions diverge.

Breast Implant Illness (BII) Symptoms, Causes, and Facts – 2022

The medical establishment has yet to fully accept Breast Implant Illness (BII) for diagnosing a patient’s symptoms, but that does not mean it’s a myth. Patients report a laundry list of symptoms that span a wide range of characteristics, from chronic fatigue to persistent joint and muscle pain, making it difficult to diagnose. However, there is no doubt that patients have experienced symptoms that they believe to be caused in connection to their breast implant augmentation.

Is Breast Implant Illness (BII) a myth or science?

When thinking about elective breast augmentation surgery, your health and well-being always come first. BII is no myth – but there is limited scientific research on the link between the self-identified symptoms of BII and breast implants. Therefore, the information below is presented without bias to provide a transparent and conclusive understanding of what is known about BII and patients’ reported symptoms.

Breast Implant Illness Vs. BIA-ALCL Vs. Breast Cancer: What’s the Difference?

Many patients have a confused knowledge of the differences between the conditions associated with breast implants. Breast Implant Illness (BII) is a term coined by patients who self-identify a variety of symptoms that they think are caused by their silicone or saline breast implants. Unlike BII, the medical and scientific community agree on breast implant’s connection to Breast Implant Augmentation-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

BIA-ALCL is non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma of the immune system that can develop in the scar tissue and fluid around a breast implant. The most common symptoms include persistent swelling, a mass, and pain around the implant. In some cases, BIA-ALCL can spread beyond the scar tissue and into the rest of the body.

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Cases of BIA-ALCL are rare, and there is no recognized connection between BIA-ALCL and breast cancer. Patients with confirmed BIA-ALCL undergo an extensive breast implant removal procedure that removes the scar capsule in the surrounding area. And, in 2019, the FDA requested a recall of the Allergan products linked with cases of BIA-ALCL across the globe.
As of 2021, the link to ALCS and breast implants has been associated with textured surface implants. Modern Surgical Arts of Denver, we only provide smooth surface implants as an option for implant augmentation. The current literature puts your potential risk of developing ALCL with our smooth saline or silicone implants as negligible.

Are there risks to having breast implant augmentation surgery?

Every medical procedure carries a certain amount of inherent risk, whether or not it involves surgery. Risks are something every patient should discuss with their doctor and consider before moving forward with a breast implant augmentation:

Corrective breast implant surgery may be necessary if any of the following issues occur after your augmentation procedure:

  • Implant leakage or rupture
  • Infection
  • Discomfort
  • Sensorial changes to the breast
  • Change to nipples and areola shape
  • Scarring
  • Rejection or capsular contraction
  • And others

Symptoms of BII

BII symptoms are wide-ranging, but many patients who claim to suffer from BII report similar experiences. According to the FDA, the ten most common symptoms associated with self-diagnosed BII include:

  • Fatigue
  • “Brain Fog”
  • Joint Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Hair Loss
  • Depression
  • Rash
  • Autoimmune Disease
  • Inflammation
  • Weight Fluctuation

Other commonly reported symptoms include headaches, body odor, photosensitivity, hormonal imbalance, chest pain, and neurologic issues.

What causes BII?

The million-dollar question is “what causes BII symptoms?” and there is no clear medical and scientific consensus. Patients who report symptoms of BII believe the cause to be associated with their breast implants, but the necessary scientific data to make an official determination is lacking.

The medical community cannot identify the cause of self-reported BII symptoms until it agrees on the underlying condition. The medical community agrees that some BII symptoms might be caused by an inflammatory reaction to a foreign object in the patient’s body. Some believe that certain materials, such as silicone, are responsible in some capacity.

FDA and ASPS Position on BII

The medical opinion is split on whether a direct and causal connection exists between the symptoms some patients report and their breast implants. At the same time, several BII symptoms are recognized by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) in association with breast implants, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Memory loss
  • Rash
  • “Brain fog”
  • Joint pain

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The FDA and ASPS also acknowledge that, in some cases, removing the implants has reversed the BII symptoms a patient is reporting.

Background on Research

The landscape of clinical research on BII is sparsely undertaken. In December 2021, a paper titled Understanding Breast Implant Illness, published by Oxford Academic in the Aesthetics Surgery Journal, stated –

“Little to no scientific research currently exists for BII…These findings highlight the need for further investigation into the causes, risk factors, long-term effects, and potential interventions for women who experience BII.”

One month prior, in November 2021, a study titled Breast implant illness: scientific evidence of its existence, published by the journal Expert Review on Clinical Immunology, stated conflicting findings:

“We conclude that there is a causal association between [silicone breast implants] and BII…Breast implants cause characteristic systemic reactions in certain women, leading to symptoms of sufficient severity to warrant device removal.”

The FDA directly references the existence of “systemic symptoms” described by some as BII, stating –

“The majority of women with breast implants experience no serious complications. However, there are risks associated with breast implants, including breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) and systemic symptoms commonly referred to as breast implant illness (BII).”

Surgeon and Patient Obligations Before Implant Placement

At Modern Surgical Arts of Denver, our board certified surgeons will review all of the risks, benefits, and share with you the list of materials contained within the implant so you can make an informed decision before your surgery and give you ample time to ask questions.
Before your initial consultation, complete the ASPS Breast Implant Patient Decision Checklist and Black Box Warning to review all the necessary information you need. In your consultation, you and your doctor both sign the checklist to ensure you are fully informed about the risks of the procedure. It also ensures that your doctor is aware of the current findings regarding breast implant and enhancement products that are shown to be safe.

The vast majority of breast implant augmentation procedures are successful. Even though you can find seemingly endless internet videos of patients self-reporting BII symptoms, the fact remains, it only represents a fraction of the patients with breast implants. Contact our office for more information on breast implant augmentation and BII symptoms.

Citations

  • Jill M Newby, PhD, Samantha Tang, PhD, Kate Faasse, PhD, Maria J Sharrock, BAdvSci(Hons), William P Adams, Jr, MD, Understanding Breast Implant Illness, Aesthetic Surgery Journal, Volume 41, Issue 12, December 2021, Pages 1367–1379, https://doi.org/10.1093/asj/sjaa329
  • JW Cohen Tervaert, N Mohazab, D Redmond, C van Eeden & M. Osman (2022) Breast implant illness: scientific evidence of its existence, Expert Review of Clinical Immunology, DOI: 10.1080/1744666X.2022.2010546
  • Center for Devices and Radiological Health, FDA. “Risks of Breast Implants.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, 28 Sept. 2020, https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/breast-implants/risks-and-complications-breast-implants.

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