Why So Many Women Are Having Their Breast Implants Removed

The case of the explant.

When you think of breast surgery the first word that usually comes to mind is ‘implants’. I can remember from a ridiculously young age discussing with my friends how when we grow up we’d ‘get a boob job’, likely spurred on by coming of age in the noughties, when language around body image was a lot less considered. Myself and my friends never did get our boob jobs, and in many ways, I’m so glad. It’s important to say that what a person chooses to do with their body is their choice. Should you want breast implants, and have done your homework on them, absolutely you should get them. This is simply one side of the story that often goes unheard.

I want to open up conversation about explant surgery. Breast augmentation is the third most performed surgery in Ireland, right after nose surgery and eyelid surgery. Falling under the category of breast augmentation is implants (making the breasts bigger), reductions (making the breasts smaller), and one other procedure less spoken about, explants. Illness, ruptures and unhappiness are just some of the reasons why people are choosing to get explant surgery, and plastic surgeons around the world are reporting a big increase in the number of people getting explants.

Put simply, the procedure is the removal of breast implants and any scar tissue that formed around the implant. There’s a multitude of reasons why women opt for implant surgery, one of those being the desire for a more ‘desirable’ body shape, but this search for a particular aesthetic is putting the health of some people at severe risk. I spoke with Lorna Spaine, who has recently shared her experience with explant surgery on her Instagram page (@lornaspaine). After noticing a huge decline in her health one to two years after getting breast implants, Lorna says that she knew something was wrong, and made the decision to put her physical health first.


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A post shared by Lorna Spaine (@lornaspaine)

Describing her symptoms, she says: “As someone that is never really sick I began noticing an array of different issues that I had never experienced before. That didn’t make sense as I had not changed anything with my diet or lifestyle. My symptoms started out with my hair becoming extremely brittle and grey-ing really quickly.”

However, the issues didn’t stop there, and soon Lorna’s health declined even further: “As the months went on many more symptoms started presenting themselves such as bruising all over my body, chronic fatigue, dizzy spells, food intolerances etc.” She knew something was wrong, and after researching Breast Implant Illness she scheduled a blood test with her GP. A consultation with her surgeon shortly after her bloods showed alarming results. “My blood work showed extremely high levels of metals in my body which would make sense seeing as there are many different metals included in the toxic ingredients of “silicone” and “saline” implant.”

Lorna made the difficult decision to undergo surgery to have her implants removed, one she says she hasn’t look back on since. “Immediately after my surgery I felt relief. I felt like I had finally regained my sense of self. I could not be happier since my surgery. I feel my health and energy has already drastically improved in the past month since having my implants removed.” Grateful to her implants for taking her on this journey of self-discovery, Lorna says that the last couple months have been filled with highs and lows. “You have to deal with the emotions from extremely high highs and excitement to remove them and get your life back, to extremely low lows like ‘did I make a mistake getting implants and destroying my body’,  ‘I made myself sick for vanity purposes’ ‘what will I look like when I remove them?'”

One person aiming to coach people through these emotions is Certified Health Coach, Amanda Luukinen. Helping people who are considering and in the process of explant surgery, Amanda herself chose to have her breast implants removed and can now offer a helping hand to those on a similar journey. “Many years ago I made the decision to have breast implants as I thought it would increase my confidence,” she says. “As my understanding of what it means to live well developed, within a few years it was clear that explant was the option for me, so that I could truly feel confident from within.

Even before the surgery, it became clear that explant, for me, was not just about physical recovery, it was also a very challenging mental and emotional journey.  When I looked, I found very little support. It has become an ambition of mine to support women in this area, and it’s something I’m developing.”

For people who have been through the procedure of getting explants, Amanda says that the healing process is often sometimes more emotional than it is physical. “Personally, I’ve found that it’s far more difficult from a mental and emotional standpoint and that’s a view supported by the women I’ve spoken to. The physical healing is challenging since it is a major surgery, but for most women the physical body typically heals within one year. However, the mental and emotional healing never ends, it only gets easier if you’re willing to put in the work.”

Thankfully, explant surgery is entering into the zeitgeist more and more in recent years. With celebrities such as Chrissy Teigen and Michelle Visage speaking about their reasons for and experiences with the surgery, the topic has been brought to the forefront of people’s minds. Sharing her process with explant surgery in her documentary film Explant, Michelle Visage says that Breast Implant Illness lead her to making the decision to remove the implants that had become iconic with her brand image.

Hair loss, chronic brain fog, heart palpitations and thyroid condition all played a part in helping Michelle make her choice, but still, it wasn’t an easy one for her. Finding it difficult to let go of the ‘glamorous’ character she created of herself, she candidly shared: “There’s a part of who I am that’s glamorous, who these kids look up to, and I didn’t want to appear weak. But when I took myself out of it and took my ego out of it, I realised it’s more glamorous to be in control of my health… I realised I honestly don’t care what I look like. This has nothing to do with what I look like. This has all to do with what I feel like, and to let women know that they are not crazy.”

The frustrating part for many people experiencing symptoms as the result of breast implants, is that Breast Implant Illness isn’t a condition that has yet been recognised by the greater medical community. This can lead to complications when seeking help. Experiencing that herself when she first sought medical help for how she was feeling, Lorna shares her advice for others who might be in the same position.

“I went to my doctor and he told me it was probably stress so I brushed it off,” she says. “The advice I would give to anyone considering explanting would be to listen to your body. If you feel there is something wrong don’t let other gaslight you into thinking that it’s all in your head.” Continuing on, she shares the simple message: “Do your research because there is so much information out there on Breast Implant Illness and thankfully it is becoming a more discussed issue in the medical field however a lot more discussion needs to be had.”

Feature image via Karoline Graboska/Pexels