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Breast implants: Things to consider before having the procedure

31 January 2020

All surgical procedures carry risk. The delivery of high quality health care requires that you are fully informed about the procedure and those who will be providing your health care.

Ask your health practitioner about their training and experience

Health practitioners may have varying levels of training and experience in relation to breast implant surgery and management of any associated complications or adverse outcomes, including breast implant associated cancer. Medical specialist college websites (see Breast implant hub: Getting help) may list member details, and information is also available from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) register of practitioners.

Talk to your GP or health practitioner about a second opinion if you feel it may help you to make a fully informed decision.

Ask your health practitioner if the implant is included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods

There are many models of breast implants; not all implants have been approved for supply in Australia. Ask your health practitioner if the implant that they are recommending for your procedure is included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods. This register includes all medical devices that are legally permitted to be supplied in Australia. Some implants have been suspended from inclusion on the register as the TGA has concerns regarding the safety and performance of the implant. If your health practitioner offers you an implant that has been suspended from the register, they should give you a TGA information sheet (pdf,244kb) so that you can make an informed choice for your particular circumstances.

Ask your health practitioner about the risks and benefits

Ask your health practitioner about alternatives to breast implant surgery. Also ask about the risks and benefits of undergoing breast implant surgery, and also the risks and benefits of different types of implants. Your health practitioner can provide you with educational material to ensure that you are fully informed to be able to give informed consent.

Make sure that if you go ahead with the procedure, that you keep a record of the details about the name and type of implant, the type of procedure, and details of when, where and who performed the procedure. Ask if there is a manufacturer's patient information leaflet and a patient-specific implant card available.

Ask your health practitioner about the Australian Breast Device Registry

Ask your health practitioner if they contribute to the Australian Breast Device Registry (ABDR). The ABDR records your contact details and the details of your surgery (including the reason for your surgery). Including your details in the ABDR helps us to track the long-term safety and performance of breast implants. It also helps in notifying you and other patients of any safety concerns related to breast implants.

Research reports and other publications that use ABDR data will not contain any identifiable information about you. More information about ABDR data privacy is available on the ABDR website. We encourage you to contribute to the ABDR, but you may choose to opt-out if you wish.

Talk to a health professional before you consider overseas surgery

If you plan to travel overseas for breast implants, keep in mind that the quality of medical care you receive may be different to what you would receive in Australia. The implant used in your procedure may not have undergone the same regulatory scrutiny. It would be in your best interests to discuss your plans with your health professional before you travel.

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons has developed a checklist for you to consider (pdf,158,11kb) before you plan for surgery in another country. Further information about travelling overseas for medical care can be found on the Australian Government's Smartraveller website.

Know the symptoms of breast implant associated cancer

Breast implant associated cancer, which is also known as breast implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), is a rare cancer of the immune system. It is not breast cancer, which forms from cells in the breast, but instead a cancer that grows in the fluid and scar tissue that forms around a breast implant.

The most common symptom is swelling of a breast caused by fluid build-up, but in some cases it may appear as a lump in the breast or armpit.

Find out more about breast implant associated cancer on our information page.