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Understanding Your Breasts: Making an Informed Decision

Oct 9, 2007
A woman's breast is a gland that produces milk in late pregnancy and after childbirth. Each breast is made of lobes which are groups of milk glands called lobules. Lobules are arranged around thin tubes called ducts which carry the milk to the nipple. These lobules and ducts make up what is referred to as the glandular tissue.

As with any gland or organ within the human body, some imperfections are likely to occur. Perhaps you feel that your breasts are too small, poorly shaped, or maybe you have lost a breast to a disease like cancer.

Despite a decade of controversy over their safety, breast implants are more popular than ever among women who want to build upon what nature gave them or who want to restore what disease has taken away. Whatever the reason, opting for breast implants is a personal decision that should be made only after a woman fully understands and accepts the potential risks of the devices and the importance of follow-up evaluations with her physician.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), there were nearly 255,000 breast enhancement implant procedures performed in 2003, nearly twice the number done in 1998. An additional 68,000 women received breast implants for reconstructive purposes following mastectomy due to cancer or other disease.

Breast implants are designed for augmentation, a cosmetic procedure; reconstruction; and replacement of existing implants, called revision. There are two primary types of implants: saline-filled and silicone gel-filled.

Depending on the type of implant, the shell is either pre-filled with a fixed volume of solution or filled through a valve during the surgery to the desired size. Breast implants vary in shape, size and shell texture.

Some medical care providers say that using breast implants to rebuild the breast (reconstruction), or change its size and shape (augmentation), significantly improves the quality of life for many women. Advocates of breast implants also say that a woman's consent to the surgery should be considered valid as long as she carefully weighs the risks and benefits of the procedure.

While every surgical procedure has potential risks, such as infection, bleeding, and scarring, there a some risks that are specific to breast implants--leakage from the implant, actual rupture of the implant, and nerve damage which causes some women a loss of sensation in their nipples and breast tissue. Learning about these specific risks is key to truly understanding the procedure.

If you need additional information about any issue concerning your breasts--whether it be a breast-feeding question or concerns about breast cancer-- search the Internet to find hundreds of websites dealing with all issues pertaining to the human breast.
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