Breast Implant Illness


Three-hundred thousand women will get breast implants this year, making it the number one cosmetic surgery in the U.S. Research shows the typical breast implant patient has high self-esteem and good mental health, higher and better than the general population. According to implant manufacturers, satisfaction rates top the 83-97 percentile range, excellent results for any kind of surgery. So why would some women with breast implants have a higher rate of suicide than women who don’t have them?

According to Diana Zuckerman, PhD, president of the National Research Center for Women and Families, “When you look at suicide and implants, the women with breast implants are more likely to kill themselves.”

Anywhere from two to 12 times. Zuckerman wrote about that conclusion after evaluating seven studies on the topic.

“Some surgeons believe if a woman with implants kills herself, she must’ve had something wrong to begin with; that she got implants because of low self-esteem, depression, to feel better. But women with implants are more likely to kill themselves than with other (plastic) surgeries. Why would a mastectomy patient be 10 times as likely to kill herself as a mastectomy patient who doesn’t have implants?”

Zuckerman doesn’t know that answer definitively, but she is convinced there is something physiological or mental that causes women with implants to have a diminished view of themselves.

“They do feel sexier (after implants). But they feel less healthy, less mentally healthy. For this one benefit of feeling sexier, for some reason, a whole lot of other things feel worse.”

Many women have their implants removed after they are diagnosed with a variety of auto-immune conditions. Some have lymph nodes taken out, others are diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and others are recovering from chemotherapy following Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma diagnosis after discovering a fluid pocket behind the implant. Women struggle with depression after having breast implants and many women can imagine why some women give up on life with the chronic pain and health consequences following breast implantation.

“I was a stunt woman and an actress. It took my career,” said Chandra DeAlessandro through tears, “I’m very pissed off.”
“It affects your family, you have kids at home who don’t understand why you are sick,” said Jamee Cook, a former paramedic. “I can see why someone would get to that point.”

The number of women who get to that tragic point is small. According to the CDC: 9.8 women per 100,000 will commit suicide. And middle-aged women, in general, had the largest increase in suicide in the last 15 years, up 63 percent.

Women who have their implants remove due to the health consequences regret the decision to get breast implants and believe women should be made aware of any risk, no matter how small.

Ed Brent never imagined that his wife, PJ, a beautiful woman, a successful flight attendant and a mother to seven children and stepchildren, would end her life after she blamed implants for severe medical problems. She was 49 years old.

“She was sick from the implants but doctors would not acknowledge that,” said Brent. “It was her greatest frustration that they wouldn’t listen to her.”
PJ suffered from depression, and her daughter, Catherine, who was 15 when her mom took her life, knew she felt guilt-ridden and helpless.
“But I never expected her to do anything as drastic as that,” said Catherine, who suffers from a nervous system condition and relies on a wheelchair. “There were times I wanted to die. It was hard growing up with a disability, with mom sick. She told me I could never do it. I wasn’t allowed to.”

But her mother, who was diagnosed with lupus and fibromyalgia, struggled to get out of bed every day and she blamed herself for poisoning her own body.
“One cosmetic decision she made had such a profound impact on so many lives, on her children, and that’s what drove her to it,” said Catherine.
Ed still has one of his wife’s old implants. It sounds strange that he would keep it, but to him, it’s evidence that she was right all along. An autopsy showed platinum from PJ’s leaking implants in every organ of her body, including her brain.

“If your wife had never gotten implants, would she be here today?”

“Yes,” he said. “Without a doubt.”

Dr. Zuckerman said women going through menopause are one of the highest risk groups. Their bodies have changed after giving birth, and they may be lured in by “Mommy Makeover” marketing.

“But according to research,” she said, “it’s a bad time. A dangerous time.”

Physicians and all medical providers need to be alert to the documented increased risk of suicide among women with breast implants, which was statistically significant in several large studies.

Dr. Mark Clemens, another nationally recognized plastic surgeon, stated, “It’s a major focus of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons to look into that association (between breast implants and suicide). I don’t think it’s necessarily cause and effect. It might just be a relationship, but we need to learn why this is occurring and make sure those patients are properly addressed.” Dr. Clemens is the ASPS liaison to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has researched the issue, but doesn’t warn women about the potential risk of suicide.

Allergan, one of the most popular manufacturers of breast implants, discusses suicide in its disclosure materials for patients:
“Some studies showed that women with breast implants were more likely to commit suicide than women without breast implants, but it is not clear whether these suicides were associated with having silicone gel breast implants or an underlying condition that can lead to suicide, depression, and/or anxiety. One researcher believes that some women who want cosmetic surgery suffer from a disorder, called body dysmorphic disorder which may cause them to think about suicide.”

The risk of suicide was nearly seven times higher for women who got their implants at age 45 or older, the researchers found. … Besides the suicide risk, women with enhanced breasts had higher rates of death from psychiatric disorders, including a threefold increase in deaths caused by alcohol or drug dependence.
Women have an overall threefold higher risk of suicide after getting breast implants — a risk that keeps going up over time, a new study shows.
Loren Lipworth, ScD, Joseph K. McLaughlin, PhD, and colleagues analyzed data on 3,527 Swedish women. The women had voluntary cosmetic silicone breast-implant surgery an average of 19 years earlier.

“It appeared there was no excess risk of suicide in the first 10 years after receiving a breast implant,” Lipworth tells WebMD. “But after that, the risk went up and continued to go up. There was a 4.5-fold risk for 10 years after surgery and a sixfold risk for 20 or more years.”

The women also had a threefold higher risk of alcohol or drug dependence and an excess of drug/alcohol-related deaths from accident or injury.