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What is Breast Augmentation Surgery?

  • February 28, 2022
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Feeling good in your own skin is one of the joys of life. But sometimes, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Because of this, there are a wide variety of surgeries and treatments specifically designed to make you feel like you are 100% you, inside and out. One of the most common types of cosmetic surgery, many people turn to breast augmentation, sometimes called a “boob job”.

What is Breast Augmentation Surgery?

Breast augmentation (or “augmentation mammoplasty”) is a cosmetic surgery that increases a person’s breast size and shape. There are two main ways in which this can be done: breast implants and fat transfer. Implants can also be made of either silicone or saline. The method that you choose depends on how you want your breasts to look and feel.

Why Do People Get Breast Augmentation Surgery?

The reasons there are to get breast augmentation surgery are very personal because of the equally personal nature of the surgery. So, first and foremost, you should get the surgery because you want to, not because anyone else does or anyone else offers to get it for you. Moving forward from there, there are two main reasons that people usually get augmentation mammoplasty: for cosmetic reasons and for reconstructive purposes.

“Cosmetic reasons” here means that you are not getting the surgery because of an injury or any other medical reason, but rather because you want to change the appearance of your chest. This can be to:

  • Change the appearance of your breasts if you feel like they are small
  • Make asymmetrical breasts more symmetrical
  • Increase your breast size after pregnancy or weight loss
  • Improve the balance of your breast size to your hip size
  • Make your breasts fuller
  • Increase the projection of your breasts
  • Make yourself feel more confident and love your body more

However, there is also another reason to get breast augmentation surgery and that is breast reconstruction. This is typically done:

  • After a mastectomy for breast cancer
  • After an injury
  • To correct any unevenness or issues after breast surgery for other reasons or conditions

What Can’t Breast Augmentation Surgery Do?

The most important thing is to go into the surgery having realistic expectations of the outcome. Therefore, before making a decision, you should know that there are a few things that breast augmentation surgery cannot do.

First, it cannot correct severely saggy breasts. In this case, first, you might have to have a breast lift, and then have augmentation surgery. Sometimes, both procedures can even be done at the same time. This makes your breasts not only look fuller but also look more lifted.

Second, breast implants will not last a lifetime. Usually, their lifespan is around 10 years, and then they will have to be replaced with new implants. Furthermore, breast augmentation surgery does not prevent your breasts from aging or from changing shape when you lose or gain weight.

All in all, when getting surgery, the mentality of improving the look of your breasts and not expecting complete perfection is important. Being realistic about the results will increase satisfaction and greatly help you while going through the process.

Who Qualifies for Breast Augmentation Surgery?

First and foremost, the FDA requires women to be at least 18 years of age in order to qualify for breast augmentation surgery using saline-filled implants. This age rises to 22 if the patient were to want silicone implants. This is because of the fact that breast development often continues into a woman’s late teens or early twenties. Furthermore, you must be physically healthy and you cannot be pregnant or breastfeeding.

Most of all, you have to have realistic expectations of your surgery results. This is where research comes in. Before you decide to get surgery, it would be best to research breast augmentation surgery as much as possible. You might even want to look at before and after photos of patients who have already had the surgery so that you have an idea of what you might look like afterward. This will not only help you feel more comfortable about the procedure, but it can help you have a better recovery, as well.

Types of Breast Augmentation Surgery

The two main types of breast augmentation surgery are breast implants and fat transfer breast augmentation. There are a number of different types of breast augmentation under each of these categories. With the help of your surgeon, you will be able to choose the one that suits you the best. Below is an overview of each type of surgery:

Implants

Breast implants are silicone shells that are inserted into your breasts in order to make them look fuller. There are two types of breast implants based on the material that is inside the shell. Implants are filled with either silicone gel or saline (sterile saltwater). The insertion of breast implants is the most common form of breast augmentation.

Saline Breast Implants

Saline implants are filled with sterile saltwater, which is inserted into the implant either before or during the operation. This implant gives the breasts a uniform shape and makes them feel firm. If, for any reason, the implant were to break while inside your body, the saline will be naturally absorbed and passed by your body without any harm done.

For saline implants, you must be age 18 or over. 

Structured Saline Breast Implants

Structured saline breast implants are filled with saline, just like the saline implants mentioned above. The only difference is that these implants also have an inner structure that makes them feel more natural.

Silicone Breast Implants

Silicone implants contain silicone gel. This gel makes the implants feel more like natural breasts, but these implants are more dangerous if they leak. If this happens, the gel could either stay inside the shell or leak into your chest. Therefore, patients with this type of implant should see their surgeon on a regular basis to check and see if the implants are broken or not.

For silicone implants, you must be age 22 or over. 

Form-stable Breast Implants

Form-stable breast implants contain a thicker gel than the silicone implants mentioned above, making them firmer. This helps them retain their shape even if the shell of the breaks, earning them the name “gummy bear breast implants”. However, these also require a longer incision in your skin.

Round Breast Implants

Round implants are round all over, meaning that they will not change how your breasts look even if they accidentally rotate out of place. They also make the breast look fuller, and if you want more projection, higher-profile round implants can achieve that.

Smooth Breast Implants

Smooth breast implants are the softest option offered to those who want breast augmentation surgery. They also make the movement of the breasts look more natural than the other implants mentioned.

Textured Breast Implants

Textured implants are less likely to rotate out of place or move inside of your breast. This is because they create scar tissue, making the implant create scar tissue to stick to the breast.

*IMPORTANT: Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) is a rare immune system cancer that could possibly be associated with breast implants. Patients who have textured breast implants have a low but increase risk of developing this type of cancer.

Fat Transfer Breast Augmentation

Fat transfer breast augmentation is done through liposuction. They take fat from other areas of your body and then inject it into your breasts. The fat is usually taken from your back, stomach, thighs, or flanks (the sides and lower back of your abdomen). This type of breast augmentation is usually done for patients who do not want a large increase in their breast size.

A Step-by-Step Process

To see a step-by-step walkthrough of the process you will go through for breast augmentation surgery, please refer to Breast Augmentation Surgery: A Step-by-Step Walkthrough.

Risks of Breast Augmentation Surgery

As with any surgery, breast augmentation surgery comes with possible risks. These include:

  • Allergic reactions to anesthesia
  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Changes in nipple or breast sensation
  • Hematoma (blood collection in the surgical area)
  • Infection
  • Persistent pain
  • Poor scarring
  • Soreness
  • Swelling
  • Wrinkling of the skin over the implant
  • Wrong or faulty position of the implant

Some long term risks include:

  • Formation of tight scar tissue around the implant (capsular contracture)
  • Implant rupture or deflation
  • Sagging of the implants
  • Seroma (fluid accumulation around the implant)
  • Symmastia (when your breast implants move towards the center of your chest, giving the appearance of one large, continuous breast)

Breast Implant Illness (BII)

Breast Implant Illness is a term that refers to the symptoms that some patients experience after undergoing breast augmentation surgery. It is also referred to as autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants (ASIA). BLL can present symptoms in different ways in each individual person. Symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dry eye
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Hair loss
  • Headache
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Problems breathing
  • Rashes and skin problems
  • Trouble sleeping

Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL)

Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) is a rare type of immune system cancer. It has been found in some, but not all, women who have implants with rough or textured surfaces. The FDA believes that women with these implants may have an increased risk of developing BIA-ALCL. Symptoms of the cancer may appear in patients two to eight years after the implants. They include:

  • Changes in the size or shape of the breasts
  • Lumps
  • Swelling

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much does breast augmentation surgery cost?

The cost of breast augmentation surgery depends on a number of factors, including the location of the office, the doctor’s experience, and the type of procedure used. However, breast augmentation surgery costs range from $5,000 to $10,000 with the average price being $4,516 according to the Society of Plastic Surgeons. However, the cost of the surgery is only a part of the total price for the operation. Other fees include:

  • Anesthesia fees
  • Hospital or surgical facility costs
  • Medical tests
  • Prescriptions for medication
  • Surgeon’s fee

Is breast augmentation surgery covered by insurance providers?

In short, probably not. Breast augmentation surgery is considered an elective cosmetic surgery, therefore it is not usually covered by insurance providers. Additionally, premiums for further insurance coverage could increase after the surgery, and if you want to remove your implants, your insurance company will probably not cover that either. Some providers even exclude coverage for breast diseases in patients with implants.

However, insurance providers might provide coverage for those who are having augmentation mammoplasty for reconstructive purposes.

Does breast augmentation surgery affect cancer screening?

Yes, breast implants can affect self-examination and can make it harder for mammograms to detect cancer. It is recommended that those who have breast augmentation surgery should have their breasts examined at a special facility (preferably one accredited by the American College of Radiology) that has more advanced technology and get multiple views of the breasts.

Is breast augmentation surgery reversible?

Yes, plastic surgeons can remove breast implants through breast implant removal surgery. Additionally, those who undergo fat transfer breast augmentation can also reverse the procedure. This will be done by removing the fat deposits through liposuction.

Does breast augmentation surgery make it harder to breast feed?

Yes, breast augmentation surgery can affect lactation. This is because the nerves and ducts within your breasts are affected during the surgery, which can affect milk production. When you get incisions around your areola (the pigmented skin around your nipple), this reduces your milk production. However, when the implants are placed below your muscle instead of above it, milk production is affected less.

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