Breast implants 


Worries over PIP implants

French-made PIP implants were banned in 2010 after it was revealed they contained industrial silicone rather than medical-grade fillers and that they are far more likely to rupture (split).

About 47,000 women in the UK are believed to have had the implants, with the majority of operations performed for cosmetic reasons through private clinics.

The NHS will remove PIP implants without charge, whether they were fitted on the NHS or privately. Normally, the NHS won't replace PIP implants with another brand unless they were originally fitted on the NHS.

Read more about PIP breast implants.

Is cosmetic surgery right for you?

Ten questions to ask yourself if you're considering cosmetic surgery

Breast implant surgery – also called breast augmentation or enlargement – is the most common type of cosmetic surgery carried out in the UK.

It's estimated more than 30,000 such procedures are carried out in the UK every year. Most of these are carried out privately, with fewer than 4,500 operations to fit breast implants carried out on the NHS during 2012-13.

Why are breast implants used?

Breast implants can be used for two purposes:

  • reconstructive – to reconstruct the breast mound after a mastectomy (the surgical removal of the breast, often used to treat breast cancer)
  • cosmetic – to enhance the size and shape of the breast

Generally, breast implants used for purely cosmetic reasons are not available on the NHS and need to be paid for privately.

In the UK, the average cost of private breast implant surgery is around £3,500-5,000, but you will also have to take into consideration the cost of any consultations or follow-up care that may be needed.

Read more about why breast implants are used.

Deciding to have breast implants

The decision to have breast implants should be an informed one that takes into account the potential health risks and financial costs.

If you are considering having breast implants, it's a good idea to speak to your GP and a cosmetic surgeon beforehand about why you want them, your expectations of surgery, the procedure itself, and the potential risks.

Take your time to find out as much as you can beforehand, and don't feel rushed or pressured into making a decision.

Read more about things to consider before having breast implants.

Types of breast implants

Breast implants are artificial (prosthetic) implants. In the UK, two types of breast implants are commonly used:

  • silicone gel implants – available as a liquid, a gel, or a solid form similar to plastic
  • saline (sterile salt water) implants

Each type has associated advantages and disadvantages, although most people choose to use implants filled with silicone. 

Breast implants generally have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years, after which they may need to be replaced.

Read more about the different types of breast implants available.

Breast implant surgery

Breast implant surgery is usually carried out under general anaesthetic, and takes between 60 and 90 minutes.

During the operation, a cut (incision) will be made in the skin next to the treated breast(s). Your surgeon will discuss with you the location of the incisions beforehand so you're aware of where the scars will be.  

After the incision, the implant is positioned between your breast tissue and chest muscle, or behind your chest muscle. Once the implants are in place, the incision is stitched and covered with a dressing.

You'll usually be able to go home the same day you have the operation, or you may need to stay in hospital overnight. When you return home, you'll need to take things easy at first, before gradually returning to most of your normal activities within the next four to six weeks.

You may be worried your breasts look unnatural at first, but this is normal and in most cases temporary. Your breasts will usually start to look and feel better within a few months.

Read more about what happens during breast implant surgery and recovering from breast implant surgery.

Possible complications

If you are contemplating having breast implants, you should make sure you are aware of the potential risks.

Some of the problems that can occur as a result of having breast implants fitted include:

  • infection or bleeding after surgery
  • scarring
  • the shrinkage of scar tissue around the implant (capsular contracture)
  • the implant splitting (rupturing)
  • the implant becoming creased or folded
  • temporary or permanent changes to nipple sensation

In some cases, further surgery may be needed to treat problems that develop.

Read more about the risks of breast implants.

Page last reviewed: 09/07/2014

Next review due: 09/07/2016


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The 12 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Beth175 said on 27 September 2014

Hi guys. Just wondering if anyone can help me. I have severe asmetrical breasts which have left me too embarrassed to take my top off in front of anyone. One breast is an a cup and one is a c. Has anyone expierenced anything similar? Anywhere I can get help? There's no way I can afford the cosmetic surgery charges. I don't know what to do - it's left me not wanting to wear a swimming costume or scrappy top and really making me feel down. Any advice would be much appreciated.

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Missgeorgiawalker said on 23 June 2014

I don't want a free boob job as I think the people who get this and can live with it by turning on the tears are discussing when there is children being refused life saving treatment I was wondering colour I get it on fiancé?

It is ruining my life and I feel depressed and discusiting but I would never get it for free but could they do it on fiancé does anybody know?

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Clbear88 said on 13 January 2014

Can anyone tell me how many breast enlargement surgeries that are preformed on the NHS please? I think that it is disgusting that the NHS are happy to give this out to anyone but refusing people (including myself) a breast reduction! Living a hard disabling life due severe pains not just back pain it is rediculous, feeling self conscious and targeted for obvious reasons they can not help. I personally have always had large breasts (F cup at 16) and after losing weight have gone from a 42G to a 38J no one wants to help me and it is devasting, my life has been filled with trumatic abuse and now daily chores are a struggle.

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Ch1naD0ll said on 07 July 2013

Is there anyone in their 30s or older with Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome who is flat-chested other than me?

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Cheshire lass said on 21 May 2013

To those of you thinking about having breast implants don't forget that they do not last a lifetime and you will more than likely have to go through the whole procedure again and incur the cost again.
I had mine 22 years ago - they have always been hard and now are getting harder by the week. I am going to have to go through surgery to remove the implants and probably will have new ones inserted as I was very flat chested - although I have not decided this yet - it depends on how long the implants will last - I don't fancy having this done again when I am in my late 70s!
Whereas the size of my breasts seemed very important when I was 34, now it is my health that is most important and I would sooner not be having to consider surgery which is not for health reasons.
Personality is far more important that the size of breasts really. I know that now.

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Sampras said on 17 May 2013

Hi can anyone help? I had breast augmentation 12 yrs ago and one has ruptured. The company I had them done by say the warranty ended after 10yrs. I've been told that the nhs can fix the problem I.e take them out but not replace them. I can't afford to have them replaced and I know I'll never be able to leave the house again. I had them done because I didnt get any and waited until 29 years old so I could pay for some. This caused major depression because I was so embarrassed by my body. I know some will say that that's a selfish way to be but it affected me for many years. I don't want to go back there.
What I am asking is is there any way the nhs will do it. My parents have offered their life savings because they say they couldn't bear for me to go back to the insecure person I used to be. I can't ask them to do that and even that isn't actually enough to pay for them. I have two children and work really hard but I still can't afford it. Does anyone have any ideas please.

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rockchick1985 said on 09 April 2013

i suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome. I have had this since I was a teenager . A common side affect of this syndrome is tubular breasts , ie they lie flat and have no plumpness. I am tall , size 16 and maybe a B cup in my bra. But I cannot bring myself to leave my door without padding my bra out to around a F cup as I feel this size suits my body and height. No man has ever seen me naked , I am in a long term relationship of 2 years and even my bf thinks my breasts are a lot larger than what they are as I refuse to take my bra off when we make love. I feel like I am living a lie and I cannot cope with hating my body so much. Please somebody contact me I feel like the only thing that could help me accept myself is breast implants. I am 27 years old.

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tiffanywoods_90 said on 07 March 2013

btw my size is now 32 a

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tiffanywoods_90 said on 07 March 2013

hi, how do i get help with getting a breast enlargement,
ive been depressed for years and my breasts are getting smaller and so is my self esteem, I feel sick when i look at myself, im in therapy because of it all. so i just need a chance.

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User743385 said on 25 January 2013

im looking for some advice. i am only 18 years old and ive always felt insecure. i suffer with bad skin which fortunately i can cover up. but when it comes to my breasts theres nothing i can do to help, ive always had this problem and people try to reassure me they will grow that im still young, but i am 18 now, i have an older sister who was small, my mother was when she was slimmer and my nan extremely to so i think its a family thing, it doesnt bother my other family like it bothers me as im a girly girl and it makes me feel mannish that i have this flat chest, it makes me so insecure. so much so to the point i will not go swimming or anything that involves them being on show that much, im tryiing to work with it with bras that do me justice and dresses that help but its not permanent, i do not earn much money at all and im looking for the best way to work around this, i know the NHS will not do it for me but procedures to cost an absoloute bomb, anyone with help or advice please respond.

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borneo said on 19 August 2012

I have had reconstructive surgery following a mastectomy - LD flap and implant. I am awaiting breast augmentation to the good breast or maybe an implant - so that they are both equal. When the implants need replacing in 10-15 years, am I liable for the cost.. as I have had breast cancer, I didn't pay for the implant this time around.

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maria1986 said on 24 July 2012

Hi there how do i go about getting a breast implants on the nhs. I am now 25 years of age with two kids i dont intend on having anymore. All my life i have been a 34a and to be hones i dont feel like a woman i feel like a woman trapped in a childs body my partner of 10 years is always trying to keep my mind at ease but it just makes me worse as i know that my breasts dont look normal please help. I cant cope much longer im so depressed.

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