As we age, our bodies inevitably change. And these changes apply to any plastic or cosmetic procedures as well, including body contouring, facial surgery, or implants. Often patients ask us - what do I need to know about breast implants and aging? We will cover everything you need to know about aging with breast implants, and answer the specific questions patients are often curious about.
Overview of aging with breast implants
When we talk about aging with breast implants, it’s important to address both the implants themselves, as well as the typical aging process of the skin, muscle, and natural breast tissue. You may hear that breast implants only last 10 years. This is a number that is often quoted, but it is misleading. For many people, their breast implants last their entire lives. While these devices can lose some of their strength over time, there is no rule that says breast implants are only ever good for 10 years. Additionally, the breasts will sag and become thinned out in many cases. This is related to gravity, loss of skin elasticity, and life-changes like pregnancy, breastfeeding, hormonal changes, and fluctuations in weight.
How breast implants can affect the natural aging process of breasts
In some cases, breast implants can cause a slight increase in breast sagging as you age, because of the additional weight in the breasts. This is similar to what someone with naturally larger breasts would experience. It’s also possible for the breast skin to become more thin with implants, vs without implants, because the skin is generally stretched when placing implants during the initial procedure.
Factors that play a role in how your body ages with breast implants:
- The volume of implants
- Your genetics
- Your weight over the years, and your changes in weight
- Pregnancies and breastfeeding
- Whether or not you smoke
- The placement of your implants
Aging with breast implants: cosmetic vs medical concerns
If you’re wondering about concerns related to aging with breast implants, there are 2 primary categories to consider. These are cosmetic concerns and medical concerns. Generally, if you are not having either a cosmetic or medical issue with your breast implants, you do not need to worry about them. Many people keep their implants for decades with no need for reoperation or replacement implants.
Cosmetic issues: breast implants and aging
Cosmetic issues related to breast implants can be similar to the cosmetic issues of aging without breast implants, especially related to sagging. If you find your breast implants are sagging to the point that you are not happy with their appearance, you may want to have either replacement breast implants, and/or a breast lift. Why would there be a cosmetic change in breasts?
- Sagging. This is the most common, and natural cosmetic change you may find as you age with breast implants. Sagging can often be corrected with a breast lift, and sometimes with new implants.
- Deflation. A minor deflated appearance can be the result of a breast implant sagging or changing position. However, if deflation is significant, this can be a sign that a breast implant has ruptured. When a saline implant ruptures, the saline will leak out, and the breast will change shape and size over the course of a day or two. If this happens, it is medically advised to remove the breast implant.
- Asymmetry. If your breast implants are asymmetrical, this may be a good reason to consider surgery. Asymmetry can be caused by an issue with your original implant surgery, such as improper placement of one or both implants.
Medical issues: aging with breast implants
While you may consider taking action to improve a cosmetic issue with breast implants, sometimes there are also medical reasons you would want to speak with a breast implant surgeon.
- If you think your breast implant feels hard and uncomfortable, this could be a condition called capsule contracture. What’s often happening in this case is more related to the scar tissue than the actual breast implant. Occasionally, scar tissue thickens and contracts, which makes the breast feel hard, and can lead to discomfort. Often this can be repaired with surgery, either with or without replacing the implants.
- Saline implant deflation. If a saline implant tears, it will generally deflate over a day or two. The benefit of this is you have a quick cosmetic sign to let you know the implant has ruptured and deflated. When this happens, it is important to have the implant removed. We can then often replace the implant with a new one during that same operation.
- Gel implant rupture. Although it’s easy to tell when a saline implant has ruptured, gel implants are trickier. This is because the structure of the gel implant means that even with a tear, the gel may stay in place. The gel is designed to not cause any adverse reaction inside your body. This is preferable from a cosmetic standpoint, but since it is important to diagnose a ruptured implant, sometimes doctors have patients undergo an MRI scan every few years. These MRI’s can tell if someone aging with a breast implant has had a rupture.
If you have any medical concern about your breast implants, please speak to an experienced surgeon who can help you decide if it would be best to replace the implants.
How can breast implants affect medical screenings as I get older?
There are 2 concerns patients ask about, in terms of medical screenings and aging with breast implants:
1. Can a mammogram cause my breast implant to rupture?
A mammogram compresses the breast, so patients can be concerned about a breast implant rupturing from the pressure. However, it is very rare for an implant to break because of a mammogram. If your implants have been in place for more than 10 years, there is a slightly higher chance of this happening. Ask your doctor and mammogram technician about any concerns you have about older breast implants and the pressure from a mammogram machine.
2. Can a breast implant get in the way of an accurate mammogram reading?
Most patients are able to get accurate breast cancer screenings, even with implants. Mammogram technicians are trained in how to get the best reading for patients who have breast implants. It’s important that you tell the mammogram technician that you have implants. They will be able to use certain techniques to ensure a clear reading, without the implant obstructing the view. Implants that have been placed under the muscle generally have even less chance of interfering with a mammography reading.
Are aging breast implants dangerous?
The majority of breast implant patients do not run into issues as they age with their implants, and can have their implants for decades, without risk. If you have either cosmetic or medical concerns about your implants, please see a breast surgeon so they can help you evaluate whether that issue can and should be addressed with surgery.
As I age, should I get my older breast implants replaced with a breast implant revision?
If your breast implants are not causing you problems, you do not need to get them replaced. While some implants sag or leak over time, many of them do not. If you have any concerns, please make an appointment and our expert breast surgeons can help you understand whether breast implant revision is a good option.
Breast implants can last a lifetime for many patients, without cosmetic or medical concern. Some patients do face situations where they want or need to have a surgery to replace their implants. When we place breast implants, we make sure to educate our patients about not just the procedure itself, but also about the factors of aging with breast implants. Please get in touch with us if you would like to set up a consultation for breast implants or to speak about replacing older breast implants.