Before we get onto the nitty- gritty of maintenance, let’s answer one of the most frequently asked questions after cosmetic breast surgery: when will I get to see the final results?
For breast augmentation, it roughly takes three months for your breast implants to ‘settle’, with implants under the muscle taking slightly longer than those placed just under the breast tissue.
The final results of a breast uplift or breast reduction can also take a few months to become fully visible, as there will be a degree of swelling that needs to subside and also gravity and the weight of your breasts will cause them to ‘fall’ into their final position.
We touched on how to treat your scars in the previous section, but it is important to realise that they can take up to a year before they fully flatten and fade and you can see your final results.
1. Breast ptosis
Ptosis is the medical term for drooping or sagging of the skin or tissues. Almost all women will experience some sagging of the breasts, due to the effects of gravity, the ageing process, pregnancy, fluctuations in weight or a genetic predisposition.
A breast lift is the op you need to correct breast ptosis, but it won’t stop further sagging of the breasts over time. Women who’ve undergone a breast augmentation with implants will also see these natural changes to their breasts and, in extreme cases, it can affect the results of your breast augmentation procedure, as the breast tissue ‘slides off’ the implant.
Top Tip: Marked weight gain or loss can have a drastic impact on the appearance of your breasts, so it’s best to be near or at your ideal weight before your procedure and to have maintained that weight for a period of time.
2. Breast scanning
In the UK, all women over the age of 50 and under 70 are automatically offered a breast cancer screening in the form of a mammogram. However, if you are worried about changes in your breast don’t wait to be invited, but see your GP immediately for an assessment.
Mammograms are an important tool in identifying breast cancer early and the earlier it’s detected, the better your chance of survival, so you shouldn’t avoid a mammogram out of fear of affecting the results of your cosmetic breast surgery. From about eight weeks post-op, your scars will be strong enough to undergo a mammogram, although it is best to leave it a few months, if possible, to be on the safe side.
Breast cancer screening after a breast augmentation procedure with implants is slightly different. The x-rays used in mammograms cannot penetrate the silicone or saline to image any breast tissue covered by the implant. Advise your GP that you have implants and additional x-rays will be taken to capture as much of the breast tissue as possible. But don’t worry, your implant will not be ruptured during a mammogram as they are very strong and ruptures are generally caused by wear and tear as opposed to trauma.
TopTip: Your cosmetic surgeon can arrange a private mammogram prior to your breast augmentation for you to have a record against which to check future scans.
3. Having implants and pregnancy
First things first, pregnancy is totally safe when you have breast implants. Studies have not proved any increased risk to the mother or child in those women who have undergone a breast augmentation with either silicone or saline implants. As many young women opt for a breast augmentation, it’s highly likely that they will want to have children at some point in the future.
However, pregnancy-related hormonal changes can have an impact on your breasts. Then, during nursing, the breast tissue swells and then contracts, causing the skin and tissue to stretch. It is impossible to predict the effect that pregnancy or breast feeding will have on your breasts, but most women find that there they are still satisfied with
the results of their breast implant surgery after having children.
Top tip: It’s not always possible to plan for every eventuality, but if you’re considering having children in the next year or so, then it’s probably best to delay your procedure until afterwards.
4. Breast feeding
Beware any cosmetic surgeon that promises you can still breast feed after a breast augmentation, uplift or reduction. Any form of breast surgery comes with a risk that the woman will not be able to breast feed afterwards or will experience a reduction in their ability to do so. This can be the result of damage to the milk ducts or from pressure caused by the presence of implants.
However, it is important to bear in mind that not all women are able to breast feed successfully, whether they have had surgery or not.
Top Tip: Some techniques in terms of implant placement or position of incisions are thought to be more helpful in optimising the ability to breast feed afterwards, so discuss this with your surgeon during your consultation.
5. Capsular contracture
This is the most common complication after a breast augmentation and it’s thought that approximately 8% of women will experience this problem at some point.
Anything that is implanted into the body, whether it be a pacemaker, artificial joint or implant, causes the immune system to surround the foreign body with a thin layer of scar tissue. Capsular contracture occurs when this scar tissue tightens around a breast implant, causing it to harden, become distorted in shape or even shift position and you may have to undergo a follow-up procedure called a capsulectomy where your surgeon will remove your current implants and create a new pocket in which to insert different implants.
Top Tip: It is impossible for your cosmetic surgeon to predict whether you will develop capsular contracture, but placing the implant under the muscle seems to decrease the risk, so ensure you cover every aspect of implant placement with your surgeon.
6. Implant movement and rotation
This is more of a problem with teardrop-shaped implants as round implants will always produce the same result even if they do rotate.
However, developments in the design of anatomical implants, including the introduction of textured surfaces, has greatly reduced the risk of these implants rotating. Your cosmetic surgeon will create a pocket for the implant to be placed in and there are techniques they can adopt which will lessen the chance of rotation.
Top Tip: If you have decided to opt for teardrop-shaped implants, ask your cosmetic surgeon how they will deal with the problem of implant rotation if it arises.
7. Removal or changing of implants
Every plastic surgeon will give you slightly different advice on how often you will have to replace your implants, although the general rule of implant longevity seems to be 10 to 15 years. Usually, your implants are fine to keep in as long as there isn’t a problem with them, such as rupturing, rippling or capsular contracture.
Another reason why women commonly want to have their breast implants changed is because there has been a change in their circumstances or body shape and they wish to change the size, shape or position of their implants to something that better suits them.
Top Tip: If you’re considering a breast augmentation procedure with implants, it is important that you take on board that your first breast surgery will probably not be your last.
“My top tip is not to go too big with implants as that increases the effects of gravity on the breast. Also I think once patients have had breast uplift surgery or breast implants it is better to wear a bra at all times for support.”
Mr David Floyd, Consultant Plastic Surgeon
Click here to see more of The Ultimate Guide to: Cosmetic Breast Surgery.