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Breast implants: Things to consider before having the procedure

22 March 2019

What are breast implants?

Breast implants are fluid-filled pouches inserted in the breast area. People may get breast implants for many reasons, including cosmetic enhancement and reconstruction after surgery.

Breast implants differ in their size, shape, filling and texture. Most implants are either round or teardrop-shaped. They may be filled with saline (sterile salt water) or with silicone gel. The surface of the implant may be smooth or textured.

Breast implants are not lifetime devices and need to be replaced after 10 to 15 years.

Ask your surgeon about the risks and benefits

Ask your surgeon about the benefits and risks of the different types of implants. Your surgeon should provide you with educational material to ensure that you can give informed consent. This material should include the breast implant manufacturer's patient information leaflet. After surgery, your surgeon or the hospital should also provide you with a patient-specific implant card.

Ask your surgeon about the Australian Breast Device Registry

Ask your surgeon 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 before you plan for surgery in another country, which can be found in their Medical Tourism Advice Position Paper. 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.

Further reading

Breast implant associated cancer

Overview of how the TGA regulates medical devices

Georgia's Story – a breast implant cancer case study

The Australian Breast Device Registry