When actress Christina Applegate had a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery a few years ago to avoid a possible recurrence of breast cancer, she joked that someday she would have “the best boobs in the nursing home.”  Are you wondering if you are too young or too old to get breast implants?  Is it safe for women over 60 to get breast implants or undergo other types of breast reconstruction? 

Too Young?

The FDA has only approved saline breast implants for women who are 18 or older and silicone breast implants for women who are 22 or older.  Breasts continue to develop when women are in their late teens and early 20s, and it’s best to wait to have breast implants until after your body has matured.  Breast reconstruction surgery, on the other hand, may be necessary at younger ages.

In the Middle

Most women who choose to have breast augmentation surgery do so when they are in their 20s and 30s.  If you are deciding whether the time is right to get breast implants, you should consider whether you plan to have children in the near future.  It is still possible for many women with breast implants to breastfeed, but breastfeeding—and even pregnancy alone—can alter the shape of your breasts, and you may want to have additional surgeries to restore your breasts after having children.  In addition, you should know that breast implants do not last forever.  You may require follow-up operations to replace or remove your implants.

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Too Old?

As long as you are in good health, it is never too late to get breast implants.

A 2011 study from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center followed 89 women over age 60 for ten years after they had breast reconstruction surgery after mastectomy.  Researchers found that breast reconstruction surgery is both safe for this population and a reasonable option.  One of the study authors explained that breast cancer in older women tends to be less aggressive than in younger women.  Even a 70 year old woman can expect to live for another 16 years, and an 80 year old woman in reasonably good health can expect to live for at least six more years. 

However, despite the fact that women over 65 account for 48 percent of breast cancer patients, few of them choose to have reconstruction surgery.  Experts suggest that these women may not know about all of their choices, breast reconstruction may not appeal to them, or they may be worried about going through the possible complications and a difficult recovery period. 

Another recent study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery involved 75 women between 60 and 77 years old who chose to have breast reconstruction after mastectomy.  When asked if they would elect the same treatment again, 90 percent of the women answered yes, even though some of them had to endure multiple surgeries and a long recovery period.  The researchers concluded that physicians should offer breast reconstruction to all older women regardless of age.