If you’ve ever had the conversation with yourself (or your surgeon) asking, “Am I anxious or is this breast implant illness” – you are not alone! Recently, our very own Dr. Tania Ash spoke on the podcast Well to Do with Andi Lew about breast implant illness and its connection to breast implant rupture and mast cell activation syndrome.

It was a timely chat. Over the last 2 years the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a box warning that breast implants may trigger systemic symptoms of breast implant illness (BII) and that there is a risk of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). There was also a global recall of Allergaenn’s textured implants and expanders . These two things have highlighted the issue with Australia’s TGA and medical fraternity, and it is a topic currently under discussion.

What is breast implant illness? 

Breast implant illness (BII) is the label given to cover a smorgasbord of symptoms experienced by people with breast implants. Importantly, you don’t need to have a rupture, leak, or textured implants to experience these symptoms; you can experience it as a systemic response to the breast implant.


BII symptoms can include fatigue, brain fog, joint pain, anxiety, depression, skin rashes, and autoimmune symptoms, among others. Some women also report breast-specific symptoms such as pain, swelling, and changes in breast shape.


The exact cause of BII is not yet fully understood, and the condition is not recognised as a distinct medical diagnosis by the medical community. However, when you look into the symptoms and underlying physiology, BII is essentially mast cell activation syndrome.


It’s important to note that breast implant illness is not the same as breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a rare form of cancer that has been linked to certain types of breast implants. BIA-ALCL is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.


So, what is mast cell activation syndrome?

Mast cells are found throughout our body and can be thought of as our “first responders”; they are on the lookout for problems and work to protect us. The mast cells identify the problem and rally to protect the rest of the body by expelling the agent from the body or walling it off with scar tissue. 


In the case of BII and breast implants, the mast cells activate to respond to the foreign agent – the implant capsule – by forming a wall of scar tissue around the implant. (Think, like an egg shell around the capsule to keep it away from the rest of the body.)


During this process, when the mast cells activate, they release chemical mediators such as adrenaline, histamine, and cytokines into your system. These mediators can then lead to their own side effects such as anxiety, fatigue, hives, fluid retention, and heart palpitations – similar symptoms to breast implant illness.   


How can I treat breast implant illness? 

Ultimately, you will need to speak with your medical provider about explant (en bloc/total capsulectomy) of your implants. This surgery will remove the scar tissue and the implant capsule at the same time. 


That said, we know that having breast implants is a highly-personal decision and the idea of removing them can be quite a scary process. So, long before you explant, there are steps you can take to treat the symptoms of breast implant illness


Understanding that BII is mast cell activation syndrome means that your body is fighting toxins. And luckily, our body has an innate, inbuilt detoxification system to get rid of any residual toxins – like your liver, sweat, bowels and more. Taking proactive steps to boost your body’s detoxification process can help treat the symptoms of breast implant illness. There are a range of options available and your medical practitioner can help find the best modalities for your specific needs. 


How do I know if my breast implant has ruptured? 

Medicine is not a perfect science, so it isn’t guaranteed that the surgeon will pick up a rupture or leak.  But here are some signs to look for if you’re concerned your breast implant has ruptured:


  1. Changes in breast shape or size
  2. Pain or tenderness
  3. Changes in texture or firmness between breasts 
  4. Lumps or masses
  5. Swelling or redness
  6. Burning or tingling

Remember though, you can still feel symptoms of breast illness implant without a rupture. If you are concerned about breast implant illness or want to learn more about mast cell activation syndrome and how detoxification can aid in the healing process, please enquire here.

Watch Dr. Tania Ash  podcast on breast implant illness. See here Podcast link

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