Here at Girls That Scuba we’re all about empowering women, so this article is NOT about whether you should or shouldn’t get implants, but what the implications might be if you dive with implants. Whatever your reason for getting implants, we’re here to give you the facts and real-life experiences from our wonderful group of GTS on Facebook.
Pre-surgery, tell your doc that you’re a diver and want to continue diving, and ask what things you need to consider, how long the surgeon recommends for healing of incisions, bruising and possible inflammation.
Post-surgery, when you think you’ve healed, do have a final check-up with your surgeon prior to diving again.
Although this article is primarily about breast implants and diving, do please think about other aspects around this subject if you’re having breast implants due to cancer surgery. If you’ve had treatment for breast cancer, it’s worth reading this article, and of course consulting your oncologist, or asking for a referral to a dive oncologist specialist if at all possible.
If you are looking for more of a medical opinion please refer to D.A.N information here.
To quote some of the information on D.A.Ns article on diving with implants:
“…mammary (breast) implants were placed in the Duke University Medical Center hyperbaric chamber. Three types were tested: silicone-, saline-, and silicone-saline-filled. In this experiment, the researchers simulated various depth/time profiles of recreational scuba diving. There was an insignificant increase in bubble size (one to four percent) in both saline and silicone gel implants, Bubble formation in implants led to a small volume increase, which is not likely to damage the implants or surrounding tissue. If gas bubbles do form in the implant, they resolve over time.”
Another very positive article written by a diver, following her return to diving after complex breast cancer surgery and treatment, including reconstructive surgery.
"Your attitude, enthusiasm and determination to return to diving were a great part of your spectacular recovery," my physical therapist told me. "After your first dive, you quickly moved to another level of wellness."
London Diving Chamber also wrote something which we've copied here:
“I have spoken to a couple of plastic surgeons, and they both say that the modern gel type implants are completely safe, however the old style implants which are silicone bags filled with fluid may have a very small chance of leakage if pressures are extreme. My suggestion in these older breast surgery cases is to check with the manufacturer as to what pressures they can guarantee safety.”
Things to consider post-implant
Scarring and DCS:
“I did have a diver once who had gotten skin bends on her chest and the dive doctor told her it was likely from all the scarring she had from breast reconstruction surgery - it takes longer for nitrogen to get out of scar tissue!”
From DAN on this subject:
“It is also common to hear that scar tissue will make trouble because it is hard for gas to get back out. It is also hard for gas to get in there in the first place because of the slow halftime. Whether this makes or prevents trouble is not fully sorted out yet.”
Be aware that you might need to either adjust your equipment or invest in some new gear. Check out our GTS guide here.
You may not have previously used a women-specific BCD, but following breast implants you might find you have extra sensitivity and that a BCD designed around women’s bumps may be more comfortable. Check for adjustable shoulder straps, play with them until it feels snugly comfortable. You might also want to consider switching to a backplate with wing set up. Talk to your local dive club about testing out different equipment for fit and comfort.
Depending on the size of your implants, and also if you’ve had any other surgery or weight loss/gain, you might need a new wetsuit for better fit and comfort.
If the only thing that has changed is that you now have implants, it probably won’t affect your buoyancy much, however, consider all the other things that might have changed:
• New wetsuit
• Different BCD
• More/less saline water
• Additional surgery
So don’t automatically blame the boobies if you float more! Work with a DM or instructor who you trust, to adjust your weight system to get your buoyancy and trim back again. For a short time, it will be like being a new diver again, but you did it once, you can do it again!
Positive comments from the Girls That Scuba
“I taught a lady who was a breast cancer warrior (let's face it, that's what they should be called!) She had scar hypersensitivity. Once we figured it out and put her in a back plate and wing she was an absolute rock star!! Her wet suit was fine, but the jacket BC hurt from pressure points. Watching her succeed was incredible!”
“Totally fine. Mine don't do well with jacket style BCs though. Got to figure out which style will be best for you after the surgery. As for the floaty, funny as it does float a bit, not enough to change your buoyancy, but I'm also an underwater model, and a lot of the times I check the photos and the boobs are way higher than normal when I'm in shallow water.”
“I had breast cancer and have silicone implants. It’s completely fine - but I find a wing is much more comfortable on my boobs than a bcd jacket.”
“I dove with tissue expanders post-mastectomy which were saline, no problem. I also checked with DAN, and they said there shouldn’t be an issue. I have silicone now but haven’t been diving with these yet.”
“I have breast implants and work as a dive master doing 2 to 5 dives a day, and for me it's been just fine. I'm not a doctor and have no scientific knowledge besides my own experience.”
“I too am 4 years post op, opted out of reconstruction, had a tattoo instead. I sought advice from an independent dive medical doctor, the only concern was if the radiotherapy had an effect on the very top of my left lung. I blew 98 on the peek flow, she was more than happy with that so I was back in the water diving within 12 months. My surgeon reassured me if I opted for reconstruction it wouldn't be affected by my diving.”
Dive medicine professionals and GTS with implants all agree that there is no specific contraindication to diving with breast implants. You may need to adjust your dive gear and diving style, and as always ensure your physical and mental fitness to dive. Work with your doctors and trusted DM or instructor, and you should be just fine.
About the author:
Even though she’s not a strong swimmer, and never liked to put her face in the water, Danila Mansfield has been a recreational diver since 1996, and it is truly her happy place! She has been a full-time nomad since 2013, and blogs about it at Notdunroamin. You can also follow her on Instagram.