The New York Post recently published an article provocatively titled, “Celeb Plastic Surgeon Breaks Ranks, Says ‘Breast Implant Illness’ is Real.”
The article’s primary assertion is that Dr. Youn, a popular Detroit-based plastic surgeon with 4.6 million TikTok followers, has done what no other surgeon dared—reveal that he believes breast implant illness (BII) is real.
The article firmly states, “Now, Youn is breaking ranks with the medical establishment.”
The assertion is certainly loud… but it’s also misleading.
Yes, Dr. Youn has made his stance on BII clear—he’s a firm believer.
“Breast implants can cause a constellation of symptoms in some women, called BII. Yes, I believe it’s REAL. But I also believe that most women do just fine with implants. But definitely not all.”Dr. Anthony Youn, June 8, 2021
But he is far from the only (or first) doctor to take that position. Plastic surgeons and doctors have been saying that BII is real for years. Many have also launched independent clinical studies to bring greater awareness to breast implant illness.
Dr. Anthony Youn certainly deserves approbation for using his platform to reveal the reality of breast implant illness. Unfortunately, patients suffering from the symptoms of breast implant illness are often told the symptoms are in their heads. And that’s simply unacceptable.
But positioning Dr. Youn as a rebel standing against the medical establishment does a disservice to other plastic surgeons who have been persistently advocating for the recognition of BII for several years.
Context: Understanding the BII Controversy
Breast implant illness (BII) refers to chronic negative health effects caused by the implantation of silicone or saline breast implants. The symptoms of BII usually reveal themselves slowly, starting with pain, inflammation, and fatigue, and gradually escalating to other complications affecting the gastrointestinal, endocrine, neurological, metabolic, and immune systems.
The symptoms of breast implant illness can occur weeks, months, or even years after the surgery.
Breast implant illness is a controversial subject because it doesn’t yet have official recognition. When patients consult their plastic surgeons, they’re often told their symptoms are caused by other factors or that they need psychological help. As such, in addition to the chronic symptoms of BII, women affected by this condition must also navigate the systemic gaslighting of their concerns.
While the FDA doesn’t have definitive evidence demonstrating breast implants cause these symptoms, the current evidence supports that some women experience systemic symptoms that may resolve when their breast implants are removed, referred to by some patients and health care professionals as breast implant illness.U.S. FDA, Statement from FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner on FDA efforts to help ensure the safety of breast implants, May 02, 2019
However, change is certainly underway. The FDA recently updated their Risks of Breast Implants page to include a section on Systemic Symptoms (Breast Implant Illness (BII).
According to an FDA statement, “the current evidence supports that some women experience systemic symptoms that may resolve when their breast implants are removed, referred to by some patients and health care professionals as breast implant illness.”
Dr. Anthony Youn’s Take on BII
On the 9th of June, 2021, Dr. Youn released a viral Instagram reel wherein he acknowledged the symptoms of BII. “Breast implants can cause a constellation of symptoms in some women, called BII. Yes, I believe it’s REAL. But I also believe that most women do just fine with implants. But definitely not all.”
When interviewed for the New York Post, he said he had initially been trained to believe that breast implant illness was “hogwash.” However, after listening to stories shared by women with implants on social media, learning about lawsuits, and talking to women living with BII, Dr. Youn changed his opinion.
Eventually, he realized that breast implant illness is a real condition that can affect some (not all) women.
Now, Dr. Youn is using his incredibly popular social media platforms to advocate for BII recognition. And that’s awesome.
But Dr. Youn isn’t the only plastic surgeon to “break ranks” with the medical establishment. Various other surgeons have been advocating for BII recognition for years—some have advocated legislative changes, some have launched clinical studies, and some have even stopped performing breast implant surgeries altogether.
Plastic Surgeons & Doctors Who Acknowledge BII
Dr. Cat Begovic
Dr. Cat is a Beverly Hills-based plastic and reconstructive surgeon. She is a firm advocate for the recognition of BII and actively disseminates information via her website and social media platforms. She also investigates FDA and scientific studies and listens to patients impacted by BII.
Dr. Josh Axe
Dr. Josh Axe is a chiropractic doctor, clinical nutritionist, and the founder of Dr. Axe, a healthcare website that actively advocates for BII recognition. One of the platform’s recent articles provides valuable information on breast implant illness and explant (breast implant removal) surgeries.
Dr. Javad Sajan
Dr. Javad Sajan is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon with a surgical center in Seattle, WA. He’s the host of Plastic Surgeon Podcast, a podcast series that explores plastic surgery stories from real patients and providers. In a recent episode entitled “Breast Implant Illness Is Real,” he discussed one of his patient’s experiences with breast implant illness and en-bloc breast implant removal.
Dr. Shaher Khan
Dr. Shaher Khan is a double board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon and the founder of Executive Plastic Surgeon. He’s a firm advocate for the recognition of BII and legislative changes in passing breast implant informed consent laws in Michigan. So far, breast implant informed consent laws only exist in Washington state and Arizona, but Dr. Khan is working to have those laws passed in Michigan as well.
For an overview of other plastic surgeons who listen to BII concerns, please read our article “Top 10 Plastic Surgeons that Specialize in Breast Implant Removal.”
Clinical Studies on Breast Implant Illness
Various plastic surgeons have also launched exhaustive clinical studies on breast implant illness symptoms based on patient-reported outcomes. The following are some of the most prominent studies related to breast implant illness.
- Chronology of Systemic Disease Development in 300 Symptomatic Recipients of Silicone Gel-Filled Breast Implants (1996)
- A Case Series Survey of Silicone Breast Implant Patients (1999)
- Systemic Inflammatory Disease Resolution Following Cosmetic Silicone Breast Implant Removal (2015)
- The Reappearance of Silicone Gel-Filled Breast Implant Toxicity (2017)
- The Asia Syndrome: Basic Concepts (2017)
- Understanding Breast Implant Illness, Before and After Explantation (2020)
As you can see, numerous plastic surgeons and doctors have been breaking ground on the recognition of breast implant illness for years.
An article titled “plastic surgeon breaks ranks” is certainly provocative, but it’s also inaccurate.