Breast augmentation is the most popular cosmetic surgery in the United States. It has a colorful past that would cause many women to second-guess going under the knife. The following delves into the forgotten history and the trials and tribulations that went into various attempts to perfect a procedure that still has numerous and devastating flaws.
Plastic surgeons have long argued that their role, particularly pertaining to breast implants, has not been rooted in ill intent but rather a desire to make a woman feel better about herself. Be that as it may, numerous studies over the years have shown a troubling link between suicide and women who have undergone breast augmentation.
Case in point: A study conducted in Sweden analyzed data on 3,527 women who had voluntarily undergone the procedure. Researchers found a threefold higher risk of suicide overall. However, the risk increases 4.5-fold for 10 years after the operation and six-fold for 20 years or more after the operation.
According to Louise A. Brinton, PhD, MPH, of the US National Cancer Institute, one cannot merely link breast implants and silicone toxicity to suicide. But at the same time, one cannot rule out the possibility.
This begs the question: Why?
Some researchers believe that the link lies with a significant underlying psychiatric illness prior to implantation. In fact, studies show that the women in this study had a higher rate of alcohol and drug dependence.
In the final analysis, researchers believe that post-implant monitoring in addition to pre-implant psychiatric screening is warranted. However, it is highly doubtful that it will ever be enforced.
4. Liquid Silicone Injections
Risk comes with any surgery regardless of how minor and routine the procedure may be. In the world of plastic surgery, many would find it surprising that breast augmentation is at the top of the list when it comes to risk, far surpassing tummy tucks and liposuction.
Prior to 1992, the majority of complications stemmed from liquid silicone injections that caused a variety of detrimental side effects, most commonly a fibrous capsule contracture. In this instance, scar tissue forms around the implant, causing a hardening of the breast often described as concrete in texture.
To correct this, a doctor must manually break up the scar tissue around the implant or resort to a mastectomy. Another common severe complication is the “bleeding” of silicone particles through the implant membrane, which ultimately become lodged in various organs.
Surprisingly, such injurious injections were never approved by the FDA. It was not until 1992 that the uses of liquid silicone products were banned in the United States. Nonetheless, illegal operations using liquid silicone continue to be performed by unscrupulous individuals passing themselves off as “physicians.”
3. Breast Implant Illness
For thousands of women, undergoing surgery to extract their breast implants was more fulfilling than the day of implantation. Despite countless surgeons refuting the claim that implants were making recipients sick, a group called Breast Implant Illness and Healing now has 15,000 women who claim that their new busts caused a myriad of symptoms due to rupture.
Some of those problems include seizures, migraines, blackouts, and autoimmune illnesses. According to Phoenix Playboy model Katelyn Svancara, she fell ill for four of the five years that she had implants. Her symptoms ceased post-extraction.
These types of cases continue to grow in terms of lawsuits and are a public and legal nightmare for implant makers. Case in point: In 1998, Dow Corning Corporation paid $3.2 billion to settle the claims of more than 170,000 women.
In fact, many of the plaintiffs died prior to the settlement, one in which Dow Corning consistently denied any wrongdoing. Nonetheless, scientific studies have yet to find evidence linking silicone breast implants with these illnesses.
2. 1895 Ingenuity
On November 24, 1895, the first recorded breast implant occurred in Germany when a 41-year-old singer and stage actress underwent a mastectomy following the discovery of a painful nodule in her left breast. After numerous consultations, Dr. Vincenz Czerny resected the hypertrophic breast tissue, which left considerable disfigurement for a woman whose career was based on her talents and her appearance.
As a result, Dr. Czerny made the decision to transplant a lipoma (noncancerous tissue) the size of a fist which had developed in the singer’s spinal column. He placed this lipoma into the vacant left breast for the purpose of symmetry. The operation proved successful, and the patient was discharged within a month with only mild tenderness.
At the time, this medical procedure was not only experimental but also unheard of given the belief that “closure of mastectomy sites could conceal tumor recurrence.” Due to such theories, which dated back to ancient times, concerning breast cancer and treatment, Dr. Czerny’s medical judgment on breast reconstruction did not gain acceptance until the mid-1900s.
Since then, numerous techniques have been modified for reconstruction of the female breast. This includes using one’s own muscle flap, specifically the latissimus dorsi myocutaneous flap first described by Iginio Tansini in 1896.
In September 2006, the decomposed remains of a woman were found in a taped-up cardboard box floating in the waters of Newport Beach, California. The victim had been brutally murdered—stabbed 52 times—and wrapped in bedsheets. Had it not been for the serial numbers on the victim’s breast implants, the identity of 56-year-old Barbara Mullenix would not have been known.
Identifying corpses via implants has become commonplace. One such high-profile murder was that of Jasmine Fiore, a swimsuit model whose fingers were removed and teeth extracted by former reality star Ryan Alexander Jenkins. He had disposed of Fiore’s mutilated body in a Los Angeles dumpster.
Instances like these could explain why a Queensland man walked into a local police station carrying a “bagged and tagged item,” presumably a breast implant that might be evidence of a homicide. Unknown to the local hero, it was nothing more than a jellyfish.