By Tara Parker-Pope/The New York Times

Women who receive silicone implants after breast cancer surgery are happier with their reconstructed breasts than women who receive saline implants, a new study shows.

The finding follows years of controversy surrounding silicone implants, which some women and consumer groups have worried could leak and cause health problems, including cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. But in 2006, the FDA lifted a 14-year ban on silicone gel breast implants after the agency, along with the Institute of Medicine, concluded the devices do not cause major illnesses.

Some women with breast cancer undergo surgical removal of one or both breasts, and many opt for reconstructive surgery after treatment. Colleen McCarthy, MD, a reconstructive surgeon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, says that surgeons tend to have a preference for the cosmetic result they get with silicone implants, but patient preferences haven’t been well studied.

“By the time women get to choosing the implant type, this is yet another decision in their treatment that they are faced with,” McCarthy says. “They ask, ‘What would you do? What do women tell you?’ We didn’t have the answers.”

McCarthy and her colleagues asked 472 patients about their experience with reconstructive surgery after breast cancer, including 176 women with silicone implants and 306 women with saline implants. Overall, the women who had received silicone implants were more satisfied with the look and feel of their breasts, according to the report published online in the journal Cancer.

“Women tell me it feels more natural and they prefer the look,” she says. “Both implants can wrinkle a little bit, but the silicone tends to wrinkle less. It’s about how the breast feels when she touches it, how she looks naked and in clothes.”

The study noted that over time, women become less satisfied with implants whether they have received silicone or saline implants. Sometimes scar tissue forms, and the area around the implant hardens. If a woman has had just one breast removed and reconstructed, issues of asymmetry may develop over time as her natural breast ages.


Link to the original research paper

[Source: The New York Times Well blog]