Breast Implant Illness Tests 

There is no definitive test(s) to determine if your implants are the cause of your illnesses. The body’s manifestation of symptoms is the best indication of a reaction. However, the following list of tests have been used to investigate some of the problems caused by breast implants and may demonstrate abnormal results. Please be aware that most lab work is found to be relatively normal, even for patients who are symptomatic.

Lab Work:

  • Female Comprehensive Hormone Panel:
    • CMP (Checks glucose, electrolytes, kidney and liver function)
    • CBC + Lipids (Checks red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets for anemia, infection, bruising, and weakness)
    • TSH, Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3, TPO Ab and TG Ab (Thyroid)
    • Cortisol (Adrenals)
    • Hormones: DHEA-S, Estradiol, Estrogen, Progesterone, Pregnenolone, Testosterone Free and Total, Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG). It is best to get these checked between days 15-20 of your cycle. Day one of your cycle is the first day your bleeding begins.
  • ANA (autoimmune marker)
  • CRP, ESR (inflammation)
  • Vitamin D, 25 hydroxy (Vitamin D Deficiency)
  • Homocysteine, B-12 and folate
  • Iron and ferritin
  • NK Cells and CD57 (immunodeficiency)
  • APA Assay (abnormal immune system response with fibromyalgia)
  • Check for viruses and co-infections (viral and bacterial load):
    • Epstein Bar Virus (EBV), Mycoplasma, H. pylori, Coxsackie A, Coxsackie B, HSV-I, HSV-II, HHV 6, Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Varicella Zoster, and lyme.
    • Any virus has the capacity to remain in the body in the latent form throughout our lives and may reactivate when the body is stressed or immune function is compromised. Breast implants serve as a trigger for dormant viruses, reactivating chronic viral infections.
  • Candida, IgM and IgG (yeast/fungi)
    • Ig = immunoglobulin or antibody. IgM indicates a current and active infection; IgG shows a past infection.
  • Parasites, leaky gut, and dysbiosis
  • Temperature for thyroid/adrenals:
    • Check your body temperature 3 hours, 6 hours and 9 hours under the tongue after waking and get the average of the three temperatures. A healthy body has an average daily temperature of 37° C (98.6° F). Low and fluctuating levels may indicate thyroid/adrenal problems. See body temperature and metabolism  and the metabolic temperature graph for more info.
  • Liver function tests
  • Ultrasound or MRI (recommended to be done without contrast to avoid gadolinium toxicity) – beware of false reads, many times they do not show gel bleed or rupture when there actually is. Dr. Pierre Blais, chemist and implant analysis expert, writes on gadolinium contraindication for implant users.
  • Please note, mammography can contribute to ruptures and breast swelling. It is no longer advised for usage with breast implants in the breast implant awareness groups. See here for a study by FDA scientists indicating that silicone or saline implants sometimes rupture when women undergo mammograms. There have also been cases reported in the BIA-ALCL FB Support Group where mammograms have triggered breast swelling and led to BIA-ALCL diagnoses

Toxicity Testing:

Discuss being treated for silicone toxicity, heavy metal toxicity, chemical toxicity, and biotoxicity. See notes below for additional details on some of the labs listed.

Breast implants experience wear, tear, and degradation. Chemist, Dr. Pierre Blais, states, “the devices act as time release systems for pharmacologically active compounds.” Natural shell degradation through oxidation, enzymatic degradation, physical degradation, diffusion of gel bleed, absorption of proteins, pH and acidity, biofilm formation, etc. affect the stability and integrity of the polymeric implant surfaces. They are in the body at 98.6℉, which may increase with exercise, use of saunas, etc. Below are some texts to investigate the toxicity aspect.

  • Silicone Toxicity Tests
    • Silicone Hypersensitivity Panel (betterlabtestsnow.com, done through elisaact.com see catalog)
    • Silicon Serum/Plasma (NMS Labs – measures the presence of silicon, not silicone or silica)
    • Schirmer’s eye test (dryness – sign of silicone toxicity).
      • Rheumatologist and silicone toxicity expert, Dr. Arthur Brawer, states: “As an example, at least 75% of symptomatic silicone recipients have markedly dry eyes and dry mouth, and Schirmer tests are quite abnormal in these patients. However, their biopsies of salivary tissues are completely normal, because this ailment is likely due to dysfunction of the receptor for acetylcholine (which normally stimulates these glands).”
  • Heavy Metals
    • Hair, sweat, nails, saliva, blood, urine, or capsule tissue.
    • Due to toxins often being deposited in tissue, blood test levels may be best for acute, relatively high dose exposure, but are usually not so appropriate when exposure is chronic and low level.
    • Hair trace mineral analysis (HTMA) is a popular test for showing mineral deficiencies and heavy metal levels from chronic toxic exposure.
    • List of Heavy Metals used in manufacturing breast implants
  • Biotoxin/Mold
    • Visual Contrast Sensitivity (VCS) Test – free online (vcstest.com)
    • Lab Work: Alpha MSH, C4a, VEGF, ADH/Osmolality, TGF Beta-1, MMP-9, ACTH/Cortisol, Leptin, VIP, and optionally you can test for specific HLA Drs to check for genetic susceptibility to mold sensitivity. For more information on these tests, see here and here. If you are having gut issues you can do the Candida IgM/IgG test. Additionally, mold can also affect the sinus cavities and you can ask to be tested for MARCONS/staph in the nares.
    • MRI+NeuroQuant test has shown mold toxicity in a lady in the breast implant illness groups. This test can show changes in the brain caused by toxins or PTSD and is excellent for showing inflammation in the brain from mold. To read more about the NeuroQuant test in relation to mold, see here.
    • Other tests: Urine Mycotoxin Tests (mycotoxins are metabolites produced by fungi, such as mold – see here for a study on mycotoxins), Comprehensive Stool Test, and a Mold Sensitivity Panel (Elisa/ACT).
    • If you do test positive for mold, find a naturopathic doctor or functional medicine doctor that specializes in the mold/Dr. Shoemaker protocol. See here for a list of websites that have mold doctor lists. Resources for recovery from mold: survivingmold.com, survivingtoxicmold.com, Dr. Shoemaker 11 Step Treatment Protocol, and biotoxinjourney.com.
  • Chemicals
    • Environmental chemicals sensitivity test (ELISA/ACT)
    • Toxic Effect chemical quantity tests (Genova)
    • Xylene and Toluene urine tests
    • Previous research from Dr. William J. Rhea and his book Chemical Sensitivity: Clinical Manifestations, Volume 3 found that in “some cases, biopsy of the breast adjacent to the capsule revealed elevated levels of benzene, toluene, styrene, xylene, etc” (pg. 1273).
  • Genetics
    • MTHFR
      • 23 and Me – DNA genetic testing and analysis, checks for MTHFR and much more. Afterwards you can upload the data to other websites, such as Geneticgenie.orgKnowyourgenetics.com, and Nutrahacker.com to see how you can support your particular genetic variants with food and supplements. There is also snpedia.com where you can explore specific gene variants connected with certain diseases. 23 and Me comes highly recommended. A majority of the women in the breast implant illness groups test positive for MTHFR and this affects the body’s abilities to detox.
    • HLA-B27, HLA-DR52, HLA-DR53 (Red Cross)
  • Other
    • Metabolic analysis profile (Genova)
    • Poryphyrins urine test (Genova)

Research Opportunity for Chemical and Silicone Toxicity:

Dr. Claudia Miller is an allergist and immunologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and is conducting research for a process she refers to as TILT – Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance – a theory that is most commonly referred to as multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). It is the belief that certain sensitivities and allergies occur after people are exposed to chemicals. Dr. Miller has been identifying people with vague multi-system ailments that cannot be attributed to any well-defined medical condition and who appear to be environmentally toxic.  She believes that such toxicity is widespread.  Whether other investigators consider these patients to have fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome or multiple chemical sensitivity (or whatever one wishes to call this), these syndromes were vague and rare 60 years ago and are now more common. Central to this theory is the phenomena of masking where patients suffering chronic symptoms don’t realize that the symptoms are the result of repeated exposure to substances to which they have lost tolerance.

Dr. Arthur Brawer is a rheumatologist and silicone toxicity expert who has done over two decades of research on breast implant recipients and states: “once silicone recipients became ill from their implants, they became intolerant to small amounts of toxicity coming from elsewhere, the latter of which did not cause any problems prior to implantation (room freshness, hairsprays, perfumes, deodorants, cleansers, exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, certain foods, etc.). As you are already aware these phenomena include headaches, nausea, dizziness, etc. whenever ailing recipients came in contact with these items.”

If you have symptoms of chemical sensitivity, please contact Dr. Miller for her research on this. Dr. Brawer believes Dr. Miller’s research can help with the medical community’s recognition of silicone-induced illness.

Notes:

1. If you have implants and develop unilateral swelling, seroma, breast mass, or even capsular contracture, you should push for CD30 ALCL testing. This is especially important with textured implants. See the BIA-ALCL page for more information including the section on documents to share with doctors to help educate them.

2. If you have saline implants, Mycometrics and Real Time can test saline fluid for mold and microorganisms. It costs about $180 per implant and results generally take 3-4 weeks. If you want your implants back after the testing you have to specify it with them beforehand.

3. The 23 and Me genetic testing and analysis comes highly recommended, it is especially of importance to check for MTHFR. A majority of the women in the breast implant illness groups test positive for MTHFR and this affects the body’s abilities to detox. Explant expert, Dr. Lu-Jean Feng, discusses MTHFR and breast implants.

4. The ELISA/ACT labs only test for sensitivity, not for quantity (how much of a substance is present) or antibodies. They take the white blood cells from your blood, place them in lab plate, and add the material being tested to measure lymphocyte reaction. They are not a direct access lab, you either need to go through betterlabtestsnow.com, call ELISA/ACT to find a lab nearby, or order the test through your practitioner. They offer a variety of tests that can measure sensitivity towards silicone, foods, fungi/molds, chemicals, and more.

In particular, the Elisa/ACT silicone allergy testing has grown in popularity and you can read more information about it here. It is called the Silicone Hypersensitivity Panel and it measures sensitivity to: Silicone, Silicates (silicon dioxide), Polyvinylpyrrolidone, Tin/stannous chloride, Titanium dioxide, Petroleum by products, Xylene, Toluene, Benzene, Latex, Phenol, Formaldehyde, Vinyl chloride, Green #5, Blue #2, Violet #2, Aspergillus niger, Candida albicans, Aluminum.

5. The Silicon Serum/Plasma test measures the amount of silicon in the blood, not silicone or silica. Silicone is a synthetic man-made polymer that is made from silicon (Si) that is extracted from silica/silicon dioxide (SiO2) and then is processed further.

  • Research results have suggested “that elevations of serum silicon are seen in many women with silicone gel breast implants.”1
  • Three studies have shown that capsules from women with silicone gel breast implants had markedly elevated silicon levels compared to serum levels and to control breast tissue.2
  • The median level of silicon in 58 capsules from patients with silicone-gel breast implants was approximately 10,000x greater than that of control breast tissue.3
  • Four studies have shown that capsules from saline implants had elevated levels of silicon compared with control tissue, but their silicon levels were much lower than those of gel implants. “Although saline breast implants have been shown to shed silicone particles from the elastomeric envelope and others have suggested that silica could be released from the elastomer, our results clearly demonstrate that silicon levels in capsules around saline implants were elevated to a much lesser degree than those of gel implants.”5
  • A study on cadavers demonstrated measurable baseline silicon levels (varying from 0.2 to 45 ug/g tissue) – in fat, nipple, breast tissue, liver, spleen and axillary nodes – in 9 of 10 cadaveric patients who had not received breast implants. In contrast, 4 cadaveric patients who had received silicone breast implants had silicon levels in capsule and breast tissue, varying from 200 to 1,600 ug/g.6,7
  • Silicone is also used in other medical devices (Mirena IUD, penile implants, etc) and they have also had cases of health issues and documented elevated silicon serum.8,9 See here for a story on a woman with a silicone Mirena IUD who displays her elevated silicon serum test results and then retakes the test after detoxification and shows that the silicon levels are no longer detected.

6. There used to be silicone antibody tests, but they have been discontinued. Silicone has become a politically charged and controversial subject, and this has seemingly also affected laboratories. There are no commercial tests available to show the presence of silicone in the bloodstream. However there was a research study done in 2016 on investigating a method to detect silicone in the blood of women with ruptured breast implants, see here. Keep in mind that breast implants do not need to be ruptured for silicone to permeate out as gel bleed.

7. Heavy Metal Testing: for more accurate results it is recommended to use ICP-MS lab analysis methodology. These tests can be done by contacting a toxicologist or discussing with your doctor. See the list of heavy metals used in the manufacturing process of each breast implant. You can show the list of heavy metals for your specific implant to whomever is doing your heavy metal analysis so each metal can be tested for. Additionally, The Carlson Company in Colorado is a toxicology lab that can do heavy metal and chemical testing of explanted capsule tissues.

A less expensive and more popular test is the Hair Trace Mineral Analysis (HTMA), which shows mineral deficiencies and heavy metal levels from chronic toxic exposure. This can be done by a functional medicine or naturopathic doctor. In the breast implant illness community the main professionals who do a lot of HTMAs are: Pippa Galea and Dawn Strohm.

A handful of heavy metals used in the manufacturing process are coming up in high levels in ladies and among them is copper. A theory is that silicone chemicals are estrogenic in nature and can cause copper toxicity because there is a link between high copper and high estrogen, therefore copper is related to implants due to estrogen dominance. Another theory is that the copper toxicity may be due to the high level of tin in implants (see heavy metals). High tin moves zinc out of the body without allowing it to be absorbed, zinc is an antagonist to copper and is needed to keep copper levels low. Additionally, having the MTHFR gene mutation can impair detoxification, allowing heavy metals and toxins to accumulate. MTHFR has also been associated with high copper and therefore low zinc. Correcting this problem and balancing the ratio is important. High coper can be related to adrenal stress, hypothyroid (thyroid gland is very sensitive to copper), lowered immunity, fatigue, depression, hyperactivity, and more.

8. DNA Connexions has a Full View Test that identifies: “bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites in removed teeth, blood, tissue, implants, bone grafts or other biological samples. It tests for 88 different pathogens, including tetanus, botulism, diphtheria, HPV 16 and HPV 18, Candida albicans and more. Using PCR, one of the most advanced tools in molecular biology today, specificity of this test is one in a trillion or greater and the sensitivity of the test is the ability to detect the DNA of between 1 and 10 microbes.”

9. A good resource to research more information on tests for chemical toxicity is the Chemical Injury Information Network (CIIN).

10. Functional medicine and naturopathic doctors are recommended to better understand these tests. Environmental doctors are also more equipped with understanding the effects of chronic illness from toxic exposure.

11. If you do not have health insurance or your doctor will not order an ultrasound, check out herscan.com. No doctor order is needed. The price is $195-$235 depending on the state. They move to different cities and states, it changes every month. You will need to check their link to see if and when they will be in a city near you. The price includes a bilateral breast ultrasound including axillary area, radiologist reading, mailed results, and a CD if anything abnormal is found. Mammogram is not effective at detecting breast cancer in those with dense breast tissue. Mammogram is also not very effective in detecting breast implant rupture. MRI is best but very expensive. This information is being shared via Breast Implant Victim Advocacy (BIVA).

12. Lyme and breast implants: Silicone is an immune and endocrine disruptor, breast implants as foreign bodies create an immune reaction, both can contribute to immune dysregulation. This can skew lyme tests. Anyone who was diagnosed or treating lyme prior to explant may consider redoing specific testing about 2-3 months after explant. Explant expert, Dr. Lu-Jean Feng, discusses lyme and breast implants.

13. Do you have chronic fatigue? Chronic fatigue is one of the most common symptoms. This can be from anemia, low iron, low thyroid hormone, weak adrenal function, reproductive hormone imbalances, low vitamin B12 and other nutritional deficiencies, chronic infections, impaired detoxification and an overloaded liver, heavy metal toxicity, mold exposure, allergies, intestinal dsybiosis, mitochondrial dysfunction, and excessive physical or emotional stress. Breast implants create artificial disturbance that disrupts the natural systems.

14. Micronutrient testing: vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant deficiencies occur when the immune system is weakened, such as in the presence of the foreign body immune interference that occurs with breast implants. “SpectraCell’s Micronutrient tests measure the function of 35 nutritional components including vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and amino acids within our white blood cells.  Scientific evidence shows us that analyzing the white blood cells gives us the most accurate analysis of a body’s deficiencies.” Often times with breast implant illness women are frustrated that generalized lab work appears normal, therefore looking deeper at micronutrient deficiency tests, such as this one and/or the hair mineral test analysis, can help provide further insight on the imbalances that go on and how to manage nutrients and foods to support the body.

International:

Australia

1. There is an innovative test that has the potential to identify any co-existing infections or other underlying causes, including other bacterial, viral, or fungal/mold infections. This test is called the NIIM Pathogen Blood Test. It has found silicone granulomas and chronic inflammation in a woman’s blood work.

2. The ELISA/ACT Silicone Hyperensitivity 19 Panel for lymphocyte (white blood cell) reactivity is internationally available via elisaact.com. They work through the practitioner Dr. Ritoo Chhabra in Castle Hill, Sydney.

3. Australia has launched breast implant screening at the Integrated Breast Implant Check Clinic at Macquarie University Hospital.

From the scientific article, Breast Implant Illness: A Way Forward (2019):

“A new breast implant check clinic commenced in Australia, is now scaling to 2 states and will provide an important low cost entry point for women with breast implant-related issues to be assessed both clinically and with imaging and/or pathology. These clinics will serve to capture patient, surgical, implant, and outcome data. They will also serve to standardize work up for patients with potential BII. These will include wide ranging blood screening for autoimmune disease markers (Table 3) and also collect patient-reported outcome measure data with validated instruments such as the BREAST-Q and modified BREAST-Q, as pertaining to cosmetic surgery. These patients will need to be followed up closely and for a period of ≥2 years to track their progress following explantation.”

‘Table 3. Suggested Blood Work for BII’ can be found by clicking on the article above and are listed here:

  • Full blood count
  • Urea electrolytes creatinine
  • Liver function tests
  • Thyroid funciton
  • CRP, ESR
  • Serum IgG, IgM
  • Iron, ferritin
  • Autoimmune disease markers
    • Antinuclear antibody, antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody, anti-double strand DNA, anti-Sjogren’s syndrome A, anti-Sjogren’s syndrome B, rheumatoid factor, anti ribonucleic acid protein, Anti Sm, antiscleroderma antibodies, anti-TTG (tissue transglutaminase).

UK

Lymphocyte Sensitivity to Silicone is a test that can done by Acumen labs. Dr. Sarah Myhill and Dr. Damien Downing believe in breast implant illness and can help with testing and detox. In Dr. Myhill’s Silicone Breast Implants and Injections, under ‘Tests for Silicone Poisoning:’

“The most sensitive test available in this country to assess the reaction of white cells to silicone in the body is a lymphocyte chemical sensitivity (silicone) test. This just involves sending a blood sample to ACUMEN. This test does not tell us about the total load of silicone but whether or not the immune system has been activated agasint silicone. My clinical impression of tests done so far is that the worst affected women have the highest levels of sensitivity.”

Acumen Labs offers a wide array of unique tests that are not offered in the US, including mitochondrial tests to assess chronic fatigue. See Chronic fatigue syndrome and mitochondrial dysfunction.

Final Thoughts:

Symptoms are your body’s way of indicating a reaction, it is not recommended to rely on lab work for “proof,” as this will be a waste of time and an unreliable approach. Many women who are very ill get disappointed by how their lab results do not reflect their sickness. Once you realize breast implants are contributing to your symptoms, it is best to respond with explantation in a timely manner to prevent further progression of illness.