From being an active mother of teenage boys pre breast reconstruction to barely functioning, Robyn Towt’s breast implant illness journey mirrors those of so many women. In May of 2017, Robyn underwent a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery as a result of breast cancer. Immediately after receiving tissue expanders, she began to experience an immediate reaction to the expanders, which only worsened after she received her Mentor smooth silicone MemoryGel breast implants. Starting as only headaches and migraines, her symptoms quickly expanded to intense pain, a burning sensation, heart palpitations, dizzy spells, lightheadedness, rashes on her chest and legs, fatigue, insomnia, neck and shoulder pain causing her to attend physical therapy three times a week.
“My eyes were always red. My hair started falling out, and my eyelashes were falling out. I went from being an active, busy mom of two teenage boys to feeling like a 100-year-old woman on her deathbed.”
With her health in a state of rapid decline, Robyn reached out to her surgeon several times with complaints that she was never warned of the potential side effects of receiving breast implants.
“[Robyn’s surgeon] prescribed pain pills, muscle relaxers, sleeping pills, etc. but never once told me that my symptoms could be caused by the implants.”
A friend who also had breast cancer suggested that she look into something called breast implant illness, and as soon as she did, Robyn was confronted with an explanation that perfectly described what she was experiencing. A short four months after implanting, she decided to remove her implants, noting an immediate improvement in her symptoms.
“ As soon as they were out of my body, I felt amazing,” she remarked, “I was feeling back to normal within 48 hours and took it easy for a couple [of] weeks and then resumed all of my normal life activities.”
Shocked by the realization that her surgeon never mentioned the possibility that there could be side effects to getting breast implants during any of her consultative or preoperative appointments, Robyn notes that she would never have opted for reconstruction after breast cancer if she had been informed of the potential risks.
“I would definitely say that if you have breast implants and your health has declined since having them placed in your body; explant is the first step in regaining your health.”
Robyn’s experience with breast implant illness drove her to become an advocate for proper informed consent and patient safety. She has pursued legislation within her home state of Arizona, which has led to the implementation of the first breast implant illness related law regarding proper informed consent. This law mandates that surgeons will be required to present the patient with information that the FDA has mandated that manufacturers must give to each patient. This law also requires that surgeons use a doctor/patient checklist that clearly outlines the risks and complications associated with breast implants. This is intended to make it easier for patients to understand the potential risks of breast implants, which include breast implant illness, Breast Implant Associated Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) and the autoimmune symptoms that breast implants can cause.
Robyn’s newfound passion has resulted in her helping women in other states pass similar legislation and co-founding an organization called Breast Implant Safety Alliance (BISA). BISA is a nonprofit organization that works collaboratively with doctors, patients, plastic surgery societies, implant manufacturers and the FDA. Their mission is to, “educate and increase awareness locally and globally regarding breast implant safety.”
“We are committed to patient safety and awareness regarding breast implants and the risks and complications that are associated with them.”