A few years ago, no one was talking about breast implant illness.
But that time has passed. In increasing numbers, women around the world are speaking out about their breast implant illness and the decision in many cases to go under the knife for explant surgery to remove the implants making them sick.
In my own case, just a few years ago I was a skeptic that my silicone implants could be the cause of any health issues, but I would eventually arrive at the difficult decision to remove them for health reasons.
If you’d like to hear more about my personal experience, you can read more about my breast implant illness (or BII) here
Breast implant illness is unlike many other diseases.
There is no definitive test to prove you have it (the symptoms include many that could be caused by any number of other causes,) and for many women, it can feel embarrassing or taboo to even bring up.
Finding a surgeon skilled enough to perform an explant, and who even believes in breast implant illness to begin with is easier said than done – especially if you’re already dealing with debilitating symptoms.
Many women feel a huge sense of overwhelm and fear when going through breast implant illness. Fortunately, you’re far from alone.
Breast Implant Illness: Resources, Support, and Steps to Cope
If you or a loved one is dealing with breast implant illness, read on for next steps, options, and everything you need to know from someone who’s gone through it.
The First Step to Dealing With Breast Implant Illness: Find Others Who Understand What You’re Going Through
Dealing with breast implant illness can be isolating, perhaps embarrassing (though it doesn’t have to be!), and certainly emotional.
A powerful resource for support is the Facebook group “Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole.” The group started small but now has over 100,000 women (and growing, fast) who are all united by this same struggle.
You’ll find everything from a directory of skilled explant surgeons, thousands of before and after pics of surgery, advice on bras made for small boobs, real-talk about loving your post-explant body, and encouraging stories of thousands of women whose health has improved post-explant.
The comfort in knowing you’re not alone is immeasurable.
Step Two: Find a Good Surgeon
The Breast Implant Illness Facebook group was my starting point for finding a reputable surgeon once I decided to do the explant surgery. Unfortunately, when it comes to your explant, not all surgeons are trustworthy.
BII is a relatively “new” disease, and many in the medical field are dubious if not downright disbelieving of Breast Implant Illness even being a thing (though there are many surgeons speaking out about it and even refusing to do implant surgeries anymore).
Many other surgeons simply aren’t skilled enough to perform a thorough explant surgery, which involves removing not just the implant but the surrounding “capsule,” the tissue the body creates around the implant.
Unfortunately, some doctors will tell you this capsule can remain in the body, but this is simply not true. To ensure all the toxins are out of your body so your health can begin to improve, both must be removed in what’s called an “en bloc totally capsulectomy.”
This is a more intense surgery than getting your implants in, meaning it will be longer, more expensive, and will require a surgeon who is not only skilled in this, but believes and validates what you’re going through.
Take your time to find the right fit and insist on being heard and believed. At your initial consultation, voice your concerns, share your symptoms, ask all the questions about recovery time, if you’re a candidate for a lift as well (some women get these, and many do not, so trust your surgeon’s answer on this, not what you read online).
The Facebook group’s directory is the ideal place to start finding vetted, reputable surgeons near you.
How Much Will Explant Surgery Cost?
The cost of explant surgery varies depending on the state, the surgeon, if you’re having a lift too, etc. But in general, it ain’t cheap.
In most cases it’s a little more (or a lot more) than it costs to get the implants. And generally insurance doesn’t cover the surgery, but absolutely explore this option with your surgeon’s office and your insurance, because this is changing and depends on your insurance as well as your Breast Implant Illness symptoms.
What Should You Expect During Surgery?
As with any medical procedure, every woman’s surgery experience is going to be different. Factors like how you handle anesthesia, your body’s healing time, if you’ve had a lift or just an explant, and how severe your Breast Implant Illness is, and what your surgeon finds during surgery (for example, one of my implants proved more difficult than the other to remove) all impact your explant experience.
In general, your surgery will be around two hours and you’ll be under anesthesia. Once the surgery is over, what will you feel? Many women report feeling light, relieved, and like they’re able to breathe deeply for the first time in years when they wake up.
In my case, I was in pain when I woke up, so my nurse gave me a little morphine through my IV, and after that it was totally manageable. I felt groggy and sleepy, but there was an undeniable relief and excitement knowing my body was back to being all natural. I burst into happy tears as soon as I came to and saw my sister and boyfriend sitting by my bedside.
Once you’re released to go home, follow your surgeon’s instructions and rest! Your body’s been through a lot, so plan to spend at least the next few days resting (no work or doing much of anything other than resting and perhaps some light walking, if your surgeon clears it).
Remember, everyone’s bodies and care instructions are different and this isn’t the time to try to tough it out (some women need no pain meds, while others are in a lot of pain) or compare your experience to anyone else’s.
Another thing different than implant surgery? You’ll probably be sent home with drains that are left in for a few days post surgery to prevent fluids and blood from building up. Your surgeon will give you instructions on how to drain these. I enlisted my boyfriend and mom to help, the drains were nowhere near as scary as I’d thought they would be.
Expect to take a good month or more off of any weight bearing or cardio workouts (again, listen to your surgeon) and remember you’ve been through a serious surgery.
Despite testimonies online you might read of women who bounce right back and feel awesome, give yourself grace if you take longer to heal or don’t feel an immediate relief of symptoms.
But How Will My Boobs Look Post-Explant?
I know many women, myself included, are most concerned about what their post-explant boobs will look.
Sadly, many surgeons have told women that if they remove their implants they’ll be left saggy, stretched, or even deformed. This is simply not the case.
While factors like how long you had your implants in, how large they were, if you nursed babies, etc will play a role, in general, many women are thrilled with their post-explant bodies and shocked at how much they love their new-old boobs!
On the flip side, many women are initially shocked at what they see under their surgery bandages.
It’s crucial to remember that whatever you see when you take your bandages off is not your “final” look. Your breasts will “fluff” in the the weeks/months following surgery, and will continue to change for up to an entire year post-surgery.
I’ll be extremely honest. The first time I saw myself post surgery, I thought I looked amazing . . . well, half of me did. One of my boobs looked exactly how I remembered them looking like pre-surgery, but the other was a little pinched up and “folded” looking (I later learned this was common in many women).
Learning this was a fairly common thing that would improve with time (it has!) helped, but I admittedly had a fit of crying after my surgery. It took me some time to process the new-old me, and learn to love what I saw in the mirror.
And How Will I Feel Post-Explant?
Aesthetics aside, what about the pain? And the Breast Implant Illness symptoms?
Again, everyone is different, but in my case, the day I came home from the hospital I felt like I had more energy than I had in months. My face felt and looked visibly less inflamed. My eyes were brighter (a common improvement reported in many women after explanting. I’d been skeptical, but the photos don’t lie!).
My skin had an undeniable glow it didn’t have the day prior, and I immediately noticed my previously-dry hair and skin felt more oily. My mom and boyfriend were shocked at how energized I was so soon after a major surgery.
Pain levels vary from person to person, so all I can share is my own story, but many women (myself included) find the healing pain and recovery in general easier than the initial implant surgery.
Self-Love is Everything
Here’s the real deal. Whether you come out of surgery thrilled with how you look, or like me, it takes a little time to accept and grow to love the new-old you, there is nothing more critical than practicing self-love during this entire journey.
For so many of us, we got our implants because we felt we were lacking something. We thought our bodies would look better, we thought we’d be more confident, more feminine, more enough.
And for many, removing our implants forces us to look – really look at ourselves. Scars, asymmetry, perhaps-not-even-A cups, all of it – the REAL you! In my case, after my explant surgery there was nothing to hide behind. It feels so good to be able to sleep on my stomach and hug my loved ones close, no plastic between us!
For so many of us, explanting forces us to learn – or accept – that we are enough. That we always have been, exactly how we are.
It may take time to embrace what you see in the mirror. It may take time to feel sexy and awesome while bucking societal “norms” imposed upon women for generations. During this time, self-love mantras and affirmations can be incredibly healing and helpful (I repeated mine each and every day like a loving chant as I did my post-surgery massages).
A week after my surgery at my post-op appointment, my surgeon showed me pictures of my removed capsules and implants, checked out my scars and drain sights, and reassured me that everything was looking good.
I’ll always remember him telling me, “Everything’s out – you’re 100% you again.” I went out to my car and shed tears of joy because I knew I was me again, and nothing has ever felt better.
Explant Surgery and Breast Implant Illness: The Takeaway
Connect with other women who understand what you’re going through, educate yourself on your options, and as always, feel free to leave us a comment on this article. Remember – you are not alone, you are supported, and you can get through this!
All included information is not intended to treat or diagnose. The views expressed are those of the author and should be attributed solely to the author. For medical questions, please consult your healthcare provider.