I Had BA in 1987, I've Noticed my Right Breast Getting Harder?

my left one feels as natural as ever. Any suggestions? The doc that did my mammogram said she would leave it alone, but can it get hard like a rock?

Doctor Answers 11

26 year old breast implant is getting harder.

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Dear Rollinred, It is time you have your implants exchanged. You probably have silicone implants of the second generation which have a half life of 12 to 15 years. Half life means that after 12 or 15 years about half of them are ruptured which could be the reason only one is getting hard. Your left breast implant could also be ruptured, they don't always get hard after rupture. At this point you have several options. One option is to replace your implants for new ones after the hardened capsular tissue is removed along with the old implants. After 25 years your breasts might have change enough to merit a lift also known as a mastopexy, this can be done with or without an implant replacement which make options 2 and 3. Option 4 is to remove implants and capsules without replacement. This option would be the least aesthetically pleasing but it is sometimes chosen out of medical reasons or financial ones. Unfortunately a capsular contracture like you describe will tend to come back even if measures are taken to prevent it such as to change pockets at the time of implant exchange. So if your implants were placed in front of the muscle they can be switched to under the muscle or vice versa to give them a fresh start but even so a capsular contracture may return and that can be very frustrating for both you and your surgeon. If I were you I wouldn't follow the advice of a mammographer but I would seek the opinion of a board certified Plastic Surgeon. DrBrou

Oklahoma City Plastic Surgeon

Options for Capsular Contractures

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Dear Rollinred, With a 26-year-old history of breast implants, this is no doubt a capsular contracture. The capsule is the tissue that your body made in the first week that a man-made device was placed in your body. With time, this can start to squeeze down and harden, changing the normal dome-shaped implant into a more spherical shape with hardening and a lack of softness. With persistence, frequently this can lead to an implant rupture. It is traditionally taught that surgery is the only possible treatment for this; however, there are some nonoperative treatments available. My recommendation would be that you get a mammogram and/or ultrasound to check the integrity of the implant. If it is ruptured, then you will need to have it replaced and the capsular contracture scar tissue removed. If it is not ruptured, there are nonoperative measures that can be taken including medications and the Aspen After Surgery treatment which our office offers. Best of luck to you. Robert D. Wilcox, M.D.

Robert D. Wilcox, MD
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 22 reviews

See a plastic surgeon

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You are most likely experiencing capsular contracture and need to see your plastic surgeon for treatment.  Best to have him/her explain and show you photos of similar situations.

Andre Aboolian, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 63 reviews

Late hardening of the breast is usually capsular contracture

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Thanks for your inquiry.  A hardening of the breast associated with an implant placed ion 1987 is most likely capsular contracture.  This can occur when a silicone implant ruptures or other problems with the implant.  Please seek the opinion of a plastic surgeon about your options.

Breast implant firmness

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If your breast implant is getting firmer, ti may represent a capsular contracture and you may desire to have this changed.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

Right breast implant placed in 1987 is getting harder

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Since your augmentation was done in 1987, I will assume you have silicone gel implants.  If that is correct, hardening of one implant while the other remains soft may be related to the implant leaking.   If you do have a leaking silicone implant,  it is not recommended to leave it in place, as there is the potential for the silicone gel to spread beyond the scar capsule of the breast.

I would recommend consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon, who can evaluate your current status and advise you regarding your treatment options.

Best wishes.

Craig S. Rock, MD
Houston Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Right breast getting hard

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I would guess that you have silicone gel implants since those were the most popular implants before they were pulled from the market in 1992.  If that is the case then my guess would be that the one on the right may have finally given out and developed a leak, especially if this firmness is a recent occurrence.  The result would be the formation of a "capsular contracture" which is firm scar tissue around the implant that can contract and make the breast feel firm.  Even if your implants were intact, I might suggest changing them out.  You have had yours for 26 years and that is a pretty long time for them to last.  If they do not have a leak, it is still easier to remove them before they break than afterwards.  I would suggest a visit to your plastic surgeon for his/her evaluation and opinion about how you should proceed.

Edwin C. Pound, III, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

Capsule problems

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The hardness of the one implant most likely represents something called "capsular contracture" - which is essentially a tight layer of scar tissue squeezing the implant.  They can make the breast hard, distorted in shape, or painful.  This problem can certainly be fixed, but requires a surgery, called a "capsulectomy".  Since the implants are more than 8 years old, you should also change to a new pair.  Best to see your local board-certified plastic surgeon for a consultation.

Harding of Breast

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Hardening of the breast(s) usually means you have developed a casular contracture (hardending of the breast tissue). The tissue around the implant has become hard and is tightening around the implant. Depending on the degree of encapsulation you have, the breast can continue to get harder, the breast can look distorted, or even cause some pain. You should visit your plastic surgeon to learn about your options to remove (capsulectomy) the hardened tissue or to release (capsulotomy) the hardened tissue, again depending on the degree of encapsulation you have.


Dr Milind K Ambe's Office

Milind K. Ambe, MD
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 52 reviews

I Had BA in 1987

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Sounds like you have developed a capsular contracture. Which means you have scar tissue surrounding that implant. This will make the breast seem hard. And yes, it may get worse. You are definitely past the point of having your implants exchanged. I would seek a plastic surgeon for consultation.

James E. Murphy, MD, FACS
Reno Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 32 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.