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According to The New York Times, approximately 400,000 women in the U.S. get breast implants every year, with around 300,000 patients receiving implants for cosmetic reasons and 100,000 for reconstructive procedures. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) reported that breast augmentation was the most popular cosmetic procedure performed in the United States in 2018, with liposuction and rhinoplasty taking the next two spots. Around the globe, the number of women with implants shoots up to around 10 million.
Despite these ever-increasing numbers, countless women are now taking to social media to reveal they’re removing their implants after experiencing what’s being called breast implant illness (or BII), a broad condition with a range of symptoms that can include fatigue, muscle pain, hair loss, and general malaise. This movement started to gain momentum on social media in 2013 after Nicole Daruda of Canada realized the breast implants she received in 2005 were making her sick. She began the private Facebook group Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole to share her story and support other women through their explant surgery. As of June 2019, the group has over 81,000 members.
After years of stories like Daruda’s, the noise is finally starting to reach the right people. In March, the Food and Drug Administration held a conference to discuss breast implants in light of new research linking them to lymphoma and autoimmune diseases. According to NBC, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons/the Plastic Surgery Foundation also agreed to work with the FDA to launch the National Breast Implant Registry on July 1, 2019. Having a registry of breast implants in the U.S. will help manufacturers, doctors, and researchers gather more information on what could be causing these health issues.
The mainstream media is also speaking out about breast implant illness, with John Oliver mentioning the illness in a segment on Last Week Tonight on HBO and RuPaul’s Drag Race host Michelle Visage discussing her explant surgery on the season 11 finale.
Armed with a story to tell and using the hashtag #breastimplantillness, women everywhere are shedding light on an illness that’s still in the early stages of being understood. Here is just a brief sampling of those women.