Woman says removing breast implants improved her health
When Clarington, Ont.-based fitness trainer Ashley Dale Grant got breast implants at the age of 22, she hoped it would give her the confidence boost she was looking for.
The implants bumped her from a 'B' cup to a 'C', and for a while she was happy with how they looked. But two years later, Dale Grant began suffering numerous health problems.
She was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which led to hormone problems. Her periods ceased for over two years, she put on weight, and developed acne for the first time. Then, there were the unexplainable symptoms, like body rashes, muscle weakness and odd pains.
"I would have discomfort in my body like when I've done a really hard-core workout even when I haven't," she told CTV's Your Morning.
Her symptoms continued for the better part of a decade, with no one able to explain how someone like her who was in otherwise great shape would have so many health problems. Then, while doing online research on his wife's problems, Dale Grant's husband Matt Grant stumbled on information about "breast implant illness."
Health Canada and health authorities in the U.S. don't recognize "breast implant illness.”
“To date, there is no evidence that breast implants cause or are statistically associated with breast implant-related illnesses such as fatigue, muscle weakness, aches and pains and brain fog,” a statement from Health Canada reads.
Despite this, a growing chorus of women who have developed a spectrum of health problems after getting implants believe it’s real.
Dale Grant began reading about the illness and, after finding a Facebook group of 40,000 women was experiencing it too.
"Just reading their stories and realizing how similar they are to mine… it wasn't even two months later that I started thinking, 'Hey, I actually think I'm going to get them out'," she said.
The fitness trainer underwent tests and discovered that her chromium, thallium and aluminum levels were all higher than they should be.
“I had felt in my gut I knew that this was what was going on,” she said. “So when I saw it on paper, it was just so much validation.”
But Dale Grant's plastic surgeon, Dr. Michael Kreidstein, was skeptical. He said he didn't think there was much evidence to back up the contention that breast implants can cause health issues, although he says he's heard similar complaints from other patients.
"I've heard everything described from tingling, burning, pain, fatigue, hair loss, weight loss any symptom you can imagine," he said.
Kreidstein says studies have shown that, while many women with breast implants complain of such symptoms, they don't occur in them at rates that are any higher than the rest of the population.
He notes there is one rare form of cancer associated with breast implants called anaplastic large cell lymphoma, but that cancer is associated with textured implants, not the smooth implants Dale Grant had put in.
Kreidstein told Dale Grant he believes the power of suggestion convinces many women their illnesses are due to their implants. He said it's also why many women are convinced they feel better after removing them. But he says the evidence to support their beliefs just isn't there.
Other doctors say they believe "breast implant illness'" is real. California plastic surgeon Dr. Jae Chun says, just because the evidence isn't in yet doesn't mean the illness doesn't exist or that women's symptoms aren't real.
Despite Dale Grant's fears that her doctor might be right and that removal surgery would do nothing to end her health issues, she decided she needed to have her implants "explanted."
"It feels incongruent having these in my body," she said. "So just on an ethical level, I feel right to take them out whether it corrects my symptoms or not, I'm willing to take that risk."
Life after surgery
Two months ago, Dale Grant went under the knife to have her breast implants, and the surrounding scar tissue, removed during a two-and-a-half hour surgery in Toronto. Despite his disbelief that her implants were the cause of her health problems, Dr. Kreidstein performed the surgery.
As soon as Dale Grant was out of the surgery, her husband noticed an immediate change in her.
“Something had happened. Her circulation returned to her hands. Her hands were warm. Her skin just glowed,” he said. “It’s mind blowing.”
Dale Grant said she has felt “amazing” in the weeks since she received the surgery.
I have seen so many improvements in my health, even in things that I actually didn’t know were being affected by my breast implants.”
Although Dale Grant’s doctor warned her that, after the explantation surgery, her breasts might look different than they did before she first had implants, she said she was willing to take that risk if it meant her health would improve. Now, two months later, Dale Grant said she’s comfortable with how her breasts have changed.
“They’ve gone through a transformation on their own and they’re coming back to look more normal again,” she said.
Dale Grant said she’s sharing her story in order to add her voice to a growing conversation on the topic within the medical profession.
“I think this is just the beginning of what is going to be, I’m hoping, a lot of research done into this,” she said. “I just want to communicate and create a community of women that want to be healthy.”
“Your health is way more important than your vanity,” she added.