What is a breast augmentation?
A breast augmentation is an operation to use silicone or saline (salt water) implants to make your breasts larger, and usually to improve their shape.
What are the benefits of surgery?
Your breasts should be larger and have a better shape.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
Using padded bras or bra inserts can make your breasts look larger with a better shape.
Natural breast enhancement pills that contain phytoestrogens (plant hormones that copy natural hormones) may help to increase the size of your breasts. However, these pills have not been properly tested, may increase the risk of certain cancers and may cause you to put on weight.
Some surgeons may recommend injecting your own fat into your breasts. However, this technique is new and we do not know how safe it is.
What kind of breast implant should I choose?
All implants are made of an outer layer (shell) of silicone or polyurethane. They can be filled with silicone or saline.
Softer silicone and saline implants give a softer and more natural feel but are more prone to kinking or rippling.
More cohesive silicone implants give a firmer feel, hold their shape more and are less prone to kinking or rippling.
Textured liquid implants with a simple round shape often give as good results as shaped cohesive-gel implants.
Polyurethane-coated implants give a firmer consistency so you may not be as satisfied with the result.
Is silicone safe?
There is no evidence to suggest that women with silicone breast implants have a higher risk of developing diseases such as breast cancer and arthritis. There is a reported link between having an implant and a rare type of cancer called anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (ALCL) but the increase in risk is small and ALCL in this area is not as serious as it is when it happens elsewhere in your body.
You should be able to breastfeed and there is no evidence that silicone gets into breast milk.
What does the operation involve?
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about 90 minutes.
Your surgeon will usually want to place the implant directly behind your breast as this gives the most natural result. However, if you are slim and do not have enough breast skin and tissue to cover the implant, they may recommend placing the implant behind the pectoral muscle which lies behind your breast. This will prevent the outline of the implants from being noticeable.
Your surgeon will usually place the implant through a cut on the crease under your breast. Your surgeon will make the cut and create a pocket to place the implant in.
What complications can happen?
Some of these can be serious and can even cause death.
General complications of any operation
- Minor infection
- Unsightly scarring of your skin
- Blood clot in your leg
- Blood clot in your lung
Specific complications of this operation
- Developing a collection of blood (haematoma) in the pocket where the implant is
- Infection of the implant
- Wound breakdown or skin necrosis, where some of the skin over your breast dies
- Kinking and rippling
- The implant rotating or moving out of place
- Developing a collection of fluid (seroma) in the pocket where the implant is
- Capsule contracture, where scar tissue that your body naturally forms thickens and tightens around the implant
- Change of breast and nipple sensation
- Stiff shoulder
- Numbness or continued pain on the outer part of your breast
- Rupture of an implant
- Cosmetic problems
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home the same day or the day after.
You should be able to return to normal activities after 2 to 3 weeks.
You should be able to return to work after a week, depending on your type of work.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
It usually takes a few weeks for your breasts to look and feel more natural, and up to 6 months to achieve their final shape.
A breast augmentation is an operation to make your breasts larger, and usually to improve their shape. You should consider the options carefully and have realistic expectations about the results.
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