Woman Raises Awareness About 'Breast Implant Illness'
- A woman named Rachel Garlinghouse shared a story about how after undergoing breast cancer surgery & reconstruction, her implants began to make her ill.
- While breast implants are generally safe, experts are looking currently into something known as “breast implant illness.”
- In rare cases, women will begin to experience a slew of symptoms that may be the body responding to a foreign object (the implant).
- Symptoms typically resolve when the implants are removed.
Garlinghouse explained that after her first breast cancer diagnosis, she had a “direct-to-implant” mastectomy. That means her breasts were removed to get rid of her cancer, and immediately afterward, she got implants. A lot of women opt for reconstructive surgery after having breast cancer removed because it’s a way to maintain a sense of normalcy.Read More
Dr. Andrea Pusic explains why many breast cancer survivors opt for reconstructive surgery.
“I think that over time with our different techniques or reconstruction, immediate reconstruction … we’re just getting closer and closer to that goal of allowing a woman to have all her cancer surgery, but be herself again.”
However, for some women, these implants lead to serious issues. That was the case for Garlinghouse. After she came out of surgery with no evidence of disease, she was initially happy with how her breast implants looked, but she quickly began experiencing symptoms like shoulder pain.
Though she underwent an MRI and saw physical therapists and chiropractors, the symptoms persisted. Two years later, they got worse. She writes that she began to experience digestive issues, anxiety, insomnia, achy muscles, dizzy spells and more. Knowing something was up, she decided to needed to take matters into her own hands.
Advocating for your own health
Many cancer survivors have unfortunately experience being brushed off by medical professionals. Garlinghoue began doing her own research and, “after reading hundreds of women’s stories, I knew I needed to remove my implants or I’d never be well again,” she wrote. Garlinghouse said she was sure she had breast implant illness, which is technically not a medical diagnosis, but has been reported many times on an anecdotal level, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Oftentimes, women experiencing these symptoms will feel relief after they get their implants removed.
Garlinghouse called her plastic surgeon and told her she wanted to implants removed. During the process, a “10-millimeter mass, a breast cancer recurrence,” was also removed. Like so many others, Garlinghouse has decided to remain “flat.” “My health was worth much more than having nice-looking breasts — and so am I,” she wrote.
Experts agree that advocating for yourself when you feel something is up with your health is crucial.
Dr. Zuri Murrell explains why advocating for your own health is so important.
“The truth is you have to be in tune with your body, and you realize that you are not the statistic,” Dr. Zuri Murrell, a colorectal cancer surgeon and Director of the Cedars-Sinai Colorectal Cancer Center, said. He noted that just because a condition may be unique, or you may not be in the appropriate age range to be suffering from a particular ailment, does not mean you don’t have it.
“That’s why it’s important for you to actually educate yourself and be your own health care advocate,” he said.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- Are breast implants safe in my condition?
- Is there a type of breast implant that is less risky?
- What can I do if I begin to feel breast implant illness symptoms?
- What symptoms would warrant getting the implants removed?