Saline breast implants are just as dangerous as silicone implants. Both breast implant types are associated with a rare form of cancer and several other adverse health effects.
There is a common misconception that saline breast implants are safer than silicone implants. Since most people are concerned about the risk of silicone leaking into the body, women with saline implants may think they’re safe.
However, both saline and silicone implants can cause a rare form of cancer called breast-implant associated large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). On top of this risk, both types of implants can cause serious health problems if they rupture or leak.
Main Types of Breast Implants
There are two main types of breast implants—silicone and saline. Both implant types are used to add fullness and shape to the natural breast or to reconstruct breasts following a mastectomy.
Silicone implants are silicone pockets that are filled with a silicone gel. The gel is a thick fluid that feels similar to human fat, which is why silicone breast implants feel and look like natural breast tissue. Silicone pockets are also used for saline implants, except these pockets are filled with a salt water solution. Some saline implants are structured to feel more natural.
Breast implants can also be smooth or textured. Textured implants are rough like sandpaper, so they stick to breast tissue and stay in place. Smooth implants, on the other hand, can move around freely like natural breast tissue.
During the surgical procedure, implants are inserted under the existing breast tissue. The surgeon cuts the skin under the breasts or arms and places the implants either on top of or underneath the chest muscles.
Risks of Silicone Breast Implants
Many people believe that silicone breast implants are only dangerous if they leak. However, these implants can present a severe health risk whether they rupture or not.
A silicone breast implant can develop a leak at any time. Since silicone is a gel-like substance, a break in the silicon pocket will not change how the implant looks or feels right away—this is why doctors recommend regular MRIs to check for ruptures. When silicone leaks from a breast implant, it can migrate to other areas of the body and becomes impossible to remove.
At least 15% of implants are expected to rupture between 3 to 10 years after surgery.
Silicone contains carcinogens and toxins that can wreak havoc in the body. For example, it may cause connective tissue diseases, inflammation and symptoms of breast implant illness. Women have reported a variety of symptoms, including sinus problems, allergies and dizziness, caused by a leaking silicone implant.
Silicone breast implants still pose a risk when they do not leak. The FDA has issued a warning that both silicone and saline implants can cause a rare immune system cancer called BIA-ALCL. Evidence suggests that textured implants present the highest risk of cancer.
Risks of Saline Breast Implants
Although saline implants contain only salt water, they also pose significant health risks.
The FDA warns that the material of breast implants does not change the risk of BIA-ALCL. Textured saline implants carry the same risk of cancer as textured silicone implants. It’s also important to note that some women with smooth saline implants have developed BIA-ALCL.
It’s widely thought that saline implants are harmless when they leak. However, saline implants are prone to mold, yeast and bacteria growth. Deterioration or damage to the implant’s seal allows bacteria to grow inside the implant. This fluid can slowly leak out of the implant and spread throughout the body.
The bacteria and mold in saline implants can cause chronic infections and serious health problems when it leaches into the body. Saline implants may also cause the chest muscles to deteriorate, resulting in respiratory problems.
Getting Help With Breast Implant Cancer and Illness
Women with any breast implants—saline or silicone, textured or smooth—should be aware of the risk of cancer. If you have breast implants, take some time to learn about the signs and symptoms of BIA-ALCL. When this cancer is caught early, treatment is usually successful.
This form of cancer occurs around 8 to 10 years after implant surgery. So, even if you’ve had your breast implants for years without a problem, notify your doctor immediately if you notice any new symptoms.
Women who develop cancer because of their breast implants don’t deserve to get sick. If you receive a diagnosis of breast implant-associated cancer, Contact Breast Implant Cancer Advocates for support and a free legal case review.
“Are Your Breast Implants Poisoning You?” National Center for Health Research. Retrieved from http://www.center4research.org/breast-implants-poisoning/. Accessed on April 12, 2019.
“Breast implants: Saline vs. silicone” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/breast-implants/art-20045957. Accessed on April 12, 2019.
“Risks of Breast Implants” U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/medicaldevices/productsandmedicalprocedures/implantsandprosthetics/breastimplants/ucm064106.htm#Risks_of_Breast_Implants. Accessed on April 12, 2019.
“The Naked Truth About Breast Implants — How They Can Affect Your Health” Dr. Joseph Mercola. Retrieved from https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/11/18/dr-kolb-discusses-breast-implants.aspx. Accessed on April 12, 2019.
“Breast Implant Illness + 6 Other Breast Implant Dangers” Dr. Axe. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/breast-implant-illness/. Accessed on April 12, 2019.