- On March 25, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) met to discuss the safety risks associated with breast implants after a report found implants were linked to a rare form of cancer.
- Some women with implants have also reported adverse reactions like inflammation, soreness, and pain. This collection of symptoms is often referred to as “breast implant illness.”
- The medical community doesn’t recognise breast implant illness as a condition, but some doctors believe it is real.
- Susan Barrow, a woman who experienced these symptoms, had her implants removed by cosmetic surgeon Dr. Jae Chun, one of the doctors who advocates for women who say they have breast implant illness.
- Following the removal, Barrow said her symptoms went away. She had a photoshoot with her implants in celebration.
- Visit INSIDER.com for more stories.
In March, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held a hearing about the safety of breast implants after a report found a link between the devices and a rare form of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). During the hearing, numerous women who had or currently have breast implants shared stories of other adverse side effects they experienced.
“Breast implant illness” is not a recognised disease in the medical community, but many women cite it when referring to the lasting symptoms they experience after having breast augmentation surgery. Although many plastic surgeons deny this illness exists, some doctors advocate for women and help them remove their implants.
One of those doctors is California-based plastic surgeon Dr. Jae Chun, who focuses on removing breast implants from women who have experienced health issues.
Susan Barrow, one of Dr. Chun’s patients, told INSIDER her life has improved significantly since having her implants removed.
“I had a ton of breathing issues and asthma. I’d cough all night long and had numbness down my left arm, but since the implants have been taken out that’s gone,” Barrow said.
To celebrate her newfound feelings of health and raise awareness about the risks of breast implants, Barrow had her son take photos of her holding the implants Dr. Chun removed from her body.
Barrow never intended on getting implants, but doctors insisted it was the best option for her.
At age 40, after breastfeeding her three children, Barrow told plastic surgeons she wanted a breast lift. “But I got in there and surgeons shamed me, saying ‘A lift won’t be enough’ and ‘You won’t be happy,'” she said.
She eventually decided to go forward with an implant procedure, selecting Allergan textured silicone implants – the same implants under investigation by the FDA because of a link to the rare cancer ACLC.
About a week after getting the implants, Barrow recalled having adverse side effects. “I couldn’t sleep on my left side for many years and it was very painful. They never settled in and felt like they were my own,” she said. As the years passed, she also experienced weight gain.
Around 2013, Barrow said she began having heart problems. Doctors thought she might have been having a heart attack, so they rushed her to the emergency room. After running numerous tests, they were unable to pinpoint what was wrong with Barrow.
She was also screened for cancer but results came up negative.
Other symptoms started popping up. “My body would swell up and get rashes out of nowhere. I saw every type of doctor possible and no one gave me an answer,” Barrow said.
In 2018, she hit a breaking point. She felt so weak that she stayed in bed for two weeks straight, and her hair began to fall out in chunks. “It felt like I was fighting for my life every day,” Barrow said.
She began researching whether breast implants were the cause of her problems and came across the term “breast implant illness.”
She began interviewing doctors in Washington state (where she resides), trying to find someone to remove her implants. But when she came across Dr. Chun and his practice, she decided to make the trip to California and pay out of pocket for her implant removal.
Dr. Chun’s implant procedure differs from other doctors in that he removes both breast implants and the tissue surrounding them (Doctors often only remove the implants).
“When you look at silicone implants and the manufacturers’ warnings, they will tell you even if the implant isn’t ruptured, silicone molecules leak out and then the next layer is that capsule,” Dr. Chun previously told INSIDER. He believes the capsule layer, which is the tissue that grows around a breast implant once it’s in the body, can cause adverse reactions just like the implants themselves can.
In January, Chun removed Barrow’s breast implants. She said that just a few days following surgery, she noticed improvements in her health. “My eyes looked whiter and less swollen and I was less puffy in my face,” she said.
Three months have now passed since Barrow’s breast implant removal. She said her energy levels are the best they have been in a long time. She’s happy to have found a solution for years of chronic pain and inflammation.
Now, Barrow tries to help other women in her area who have issues with their own implants. “Between two and five women a week contact me to meet. I encourage [them] that they will get through this and I go with some of the women to interview doctors,” she said.
- Read more:
- Hundreds of Americans have developed a rare cancer that’s linked to breast implants, and the FDA is urging doctors to stay alert
- The photos of a woman’s botched butt injections will make you think twice before getting plastic surgery
- 4 of the most dangerous plastic surgeries – and what can happen if they go wrong
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