Breast Implant Illness (BII).
It is becoming increasingly impossible to ignore the rise in implant removal (explant surgery). Many women who had breast augmentations in the past are complaining of fatigue and feeling unwell. This phenomenon is like the men and women who complained of a stomach ulcer and were told they had too much stress. Women are being told their unfortunate life circumstances, such as a break-up or death are causing them to blame the implants for their symptoms. Another example would be chronic fatigue, which not too many years ago was viewed as people being lazy. As we know stomach ulcers are caused by a bacterium and treatable. Chronic Fatigue is now a recognised genuine condition. But Breast Implant Illness has no formal diagnosis and is still being treated as a “crazy women disease”.
Our site www.trustedsurgeons.com.au, is a platform for everyday people. Our goal is not about generating leads and converting people to have surgery. We aim to educate people about surgery including the risks and above all, making informed decisions. We are patient driven not profit driven, and this is reflected in the highly accomplished surgeons we list. As a result of this, we have a significant increase in the number of women contacting us with Breast Implant Illness.
Emma had a breast augmentation in a Phuket Hospital 6 months ago, with textured implants. Since that time, she has suffered from numerous aliments that were not present prior to her procedure. Emma is desperate to have her implants explanted and is considering a fat transfer in the future as an alternative means to implants. Most of all, Emma wants to speak to someone who believes her symptoms and is not labelling her as ‘crazy’. When she approached her initial surgeon, her claims were dismissed. Emma knew she had to get the implants out but found most surgeons do not believe in BII and have refused an explant. Emma was introduced to Trusted Surgeons through Facebook messenger via a patient that we had previously helped. Through the correspondence, Emma and her mother poured their heart out to me. The raw emotion, honesty and desperation literally captivated me and triggered my urge to help.
Emma was living in Queensland and that week was moving to Sydney. To add further stress to her situation, her father has stage four cancer and her mother is across the sea in New Zealand. Her poor mother is a nervous wreck and is unable to console or help her daughter from so far away. Her mother explained to me that it felt as though no one wanted to help her daughter. This has led me to ask the question, is our medical system failing these patients? A GP recommends seeing a Plastic Surgeon and a Plastic Surgeon comes at a cost. In Emma’s case the cost was not an issue as her mum was willing to help financially. This made no difference, as every surgeon Emma contacted, had no experience in breast implant illness, did not do explants or did not provide a consultation within a reasonable period. The Plastic Surgeons Emma did speak to, did not believe in breast implant illness and believed the symptoms were psychological (in her head).
After hearing Emma’s story, I recommended many surgeons I knew that performed explant surgery and would be most accommodating and understanding towards her condition. The first thing Emma did (as did her concerned mother) was get onto Google. Even though I had recommended plastic surgeons I have spoken to about BII and assured her they would be understanding, my personal recommendation was not enough. This is common, and why shouldn’t it be? As a mum, would I trust my daughter with a surgeon on one recommendation? Because of the many enquiries we receive on BII, I make a conscious effort to ask surgeons their thoughts on this condition. Most recently I have discussed BII with Dr Sandercoe, Dr Marucci and Dr Liew. All who genuinely wanted to discuss why they not only help these patients but also support research in this area.
After researching, Emma and her mother Jennifer quickly identified that they wanted to see Associate Professor Anand Deva. Professor Deva is undoubtedly a leader and innovator in Plastic Surgery and this is very evident if you choose to Google him. What is most compelling, is that not only does Professor Deva choose to listen and provide empathy, he is currently actively researching ALCL and Breast Implant Illness. Whilst progress is being made and I appreciate that currently BII has no recognised medical diagnosis with any clear treatment pathway (apart from explant), psychologically, this is having a significant impact on Emma and her mother’s lives.
The reality of this is condition is real to many consumers that have had breast augmentations. Without formal diagnosis, this can still be seen as a social issue and the numbers don’t lie.
·Facebook group ‘Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole’ – has 25,617 active Facebook members
·Web, Facebook, and Instagram pages ‘Explant Info’ (owned by Trusted Surgeons) has had 381,859 visitors since 2016 and has 1,661 active Facebook members
·Facebook page ‘Breast Implant Illness (Australia & New Zealand) Awareness and Support’ has 855 members
·Facebook group ‘Breast Implant Victim Advocacy’ has 1,877 active members
·In addition to this, there are at least over 15 more Facebook groups which have hundreds of thousands of members across the world.
I believe that if you were privy to the groups online you would be astonished. Women are hurt, angry and upset, not only by their journey but how their journey has been trivialised and rightfully so. For many, surgery cannot come quick enough and they would sell every asset they own to access a plastic surgeon they can trust. The longer the breast implants stay in, for these women, the more psychological and emotional trauma is caused. Criticism and frivolous commentary from surgeons that don’t understand the illness, silence them. What this minority of academics seem to disregard, is women are the powerhouse of our economy. Mothers are the decision makers in their household, women in business and the workplace are vital to our society and it is women who support the most powerful men in the world. Women do not like to be silenced or disregarded. With this lack of understanding, these surgeons are crucifying their target market but in the same breath, heavily marketing procedures such as Mummy makeovers? Yet it is these same women, whose friend, sister, aunty, or mother require explant surgery.
It is great to see people like Associate Professor Anand Deva, leading this powerful movement, as day by day, women are supporting him and promoting him. The greatest marketing in 2017 is digital word of mouth. I don’t see this changing for 2018, moreover, it will become increasingly more powerful. Topics such as breast implant illness is viral, it is spoken about every day and it is not going away anytime soon. As previously stated, education is key to making informed decisions. Trusted Surgeons will continue to tirelessly work to communicate with our Plastic Surgeons and provide up to date information and guidance to those in need. We will continue to utilise our digital word of mouth through our social platforms to spread the word.