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Breast Implants: America's Silent Epidemic

June 06, 2001 | 23,759 views
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by Ilena Rosenthal

Daily my phone rings and my email overflows with urgent and painful calls from women just awakening from the ether of their breast implants. Although their first surgeries may have been decades ago, they are finally emerging from the web of deceit that their plastic surgeons and the silicone manufacturers have woven through the media for years in a brilliant, expensive public relations coup of enormous proportions.

Now reality has struck as they join scores of thousands of ill and disfigured women in learning the hidden truth - their cherished breast implants may cost them their insurance, their health, their beauty, their vitality, their families, their careers, and too often, even their lives.

Everything I have ever done or thought or studied for 47 years brought me to November, 1995 when I created a Newsgroup (alt.support.breast-implant) on the Internet to provide an International Forum to discuss this perplexing issue and create a place for the women to connect with each other. I had no idea of the depth, breadth, or width of the Pandora's Box I was opening.

Five years later, after unknown thousands of communications from women, doctors, loved ones, attorneys, supporters and tormentors alike, I admit I am no longer without bias. I now know that a huge fraud has and continues to be committed on women, and the background on this issue reads like a non-fiction espionage bestseller.

No stranger to plastic surgery (first nose bob during my Dallas high school years) I do not now, nor have I ever had implants. There, but for the grace of God go I. A few million of our sisters have made that choice for a variety of reasons.

However, two common denominators remain the same -- they were always assured they were "safe" and the "risks minimal," and eerily, they have come up against a medical establishment unwilling and unable to cure their illnesses.

In 1992, after 30 years of unimpeded marketing, the FDA finally banned silicone gel implants for most women. Because of the lobbying of the manufacturers and plastic surgeons -- who flew in around 400 women to lobby Washington DC on their behalf -- women post-mastectomy were and are still allowed to get these unproven, highly risky medical devices.

Even though early studies were resurrected, long hidden by the manufacturers, proving they knew that their implants would break, immune reactions would occur, the gel would migrate, and even more disturbing, could cross the placenta and affect the unborn fetuses, almost never did this information make it to the women it could have protected.

They also hired visible spokesdoctors to misled the public into believing that implant rupture -- a devastating medical event -- was "only 4-6%." They also claimed to examine and find "no association" between implants and a myriad of painful and debilitating autoimmune diseases suffered in disproportionate percentages.

In fact, the Executive Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marcia Angell, chose to publish two very flawed, small and short studies funded by those who stood the most to gain by the results. She then promoted and defended these studies as if they were gospel in her pro-manufacturer book, Science on Trial, and flooded the media with this corporate science while branding a scarlet "Junk Scientist" on any doctor who dared to dispute the "experts."

This PR campaign includes labeling the women "crazies" and their leaders and supporters "fear mongers" and "wackos" so desperate are they to destroy the credibility of any of us who dared to speak out on the dangers. The result is that for years, women have been lulled into a false belief, that they had a 95% chance of being rupture free. The contrary is true.

Alarming, indisputable evidence was released in October 2000, when the FDA published a landmark study of implanted women, many still without symptoms. This objective work revealed that 69% of these women had at least one ruptured implant, most without any knowledge of it, although implanted a median time of less than 17 years.

Other studies had already revealed over a 90% chance of rupture within 20 years.

Hardly, the "lifetime" product they were promised.

The cover up continues to fall apart . . .

Dr. David Feigal, director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health at the FDA, said it so clearly, "When it happens to you, the rupture rate is 100 percent." By January 2000, over 127,000 women had written the FDA about the serious complications from their silicone gel implants.

The tragedy is that still today, they are unable to get good medical care as the majority of doctors refuse to believe the connection. Even worse, doctors don't have a clue what to do to heal these assaulted immune systems and rid women's bodies of the dozens of dangerous ingredients found in implants such as platinum, silica, formaldehyde, plasticizers and organic solvents.

Implant formulations were frequently changed -- shells and gel thicker then thinner then thicker again -- and "new and improved" was marketed so often, it appears silicone merchants believed their own hype.

In the 80's, as "the" answer to capsular contracture, over 100,000 women received gel implants with polyurethane foam glued to them. Not only did the foam disintegrate, often within just weeks of implantation, but it broke down into TDA, a known carcinogen, decades ago removed from hair dyes.

These women are amongst the most ill, and even when these dangerous implants were hurriedly taken off the market in 1991, no recall or even courtesy call was made to warn the implanted women.

The most recent implant disaster was exported to Europe, where well over 5,000 women, mainly in Britain, were implanted with soy oil filled implants, unlovingly known as "tofu titties." The American protocol for this product required this new round of female "lab rats" to be past childbearing age, but somewhere on it's way across the Atlantic, this requirement was dropped.

Health advocates and cautious scientists were warning of the serious potential dangers but were ignored and the "experts" made fortunes implanting them even in very young women. Their bubble burst as shocking reports and the rancid soy oil leaked out in Spring of 2000, and all the women were advised to have them removed as quickly as possible.

The damage to many had already been done. Now, like the millions with failed gel implants, they are faced with yet another difficult decision, should they replace them with saline filled implants? Is Saline the Solution?

From her wheelchair, Jackie Strange, the former Deputy Postmaster General of the United States spoke of the destruction of her life at hearings by the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC.

Infections, peripheral neuropathy, and a myriad of autoimmune diseases struck in both rapid and slow succession following her implantation with saline filled, silicone implants. Concurrently, the manufacturers and plastic surgeons were creating a multi-media blitz touting saline implants from billboards, glossy magazines and TV. With ads reminiscent of "You've come a long way, baby," young women were featured praising their implants and plastic surgeons did the Talk Show circuit assuring women that saline was "natural" and leakage benign.

In Spring, 2000, in spite of over 50,000 reports of serious adverse reactions from water-filled implants, the FDA made the fateful decision to give their highly valued stamp of "safety approval" on two brands of saline implants, declaring them "safe enough." How can this be?

The manufacturers own studies show that within just the first 3 years, nearly 40% of post-mastectomy patients had to have additional surgeries with these implants.

The complication rate for these women is around 80% in just 4 years time. After cancer, invasive surgery to remove the tumors, often radiation and / or chemotherapy, the body is simply not strong enough to handle this foreign invader.

Even for women wanting implants just for augmentation to boost their self-esteem, the complication rates are staggering. Glamour Magazine, in their November 2000 issue published a full page photo revealing a saline filled implant, entirely black with aspergillus niger and other fungi.

Breast Cancer and Implants - No Easy Answers

Nearly 200,000 American women -- our sisters, mothers, teachers, lovers, daughters, friends -- will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Cancer and implant survivor, retired Professor of Health Education, Henrietta Farber, recently summarized the feelings of many who know, "The cancer was challenging.

The implants almost killed me." While the manufacturers press releases rage "The Case Against Implants Collapses," and try to close this ugly chapter in medical history, the women, now united, have a plan of their own. With the health of women and their offspring at stake, Martha Murdock, Co-Founder of the National Silicone Implant Foundation in Dallas, with four generations of her family affected by silicone toxicity, says it best, "It's not over 'til we win."

Risks of Breast Implants

1. Implants can rupture during mammography.

2. Implants make routine self exams and mammography more difficult. More views are necessary, meaning additional radiation each time.

3. Implant rupture can go undetected for years and silicone is known to migrate through the lymph system and has been found in the brains, spinal fluid, ovaries, livers, and other organs of implanted women.

4. Implants are not lifetime devices, and may need to be replaced (even without systemic problems) more than once a decade.

5. At any time infections are possible, including fungal and antibiotic resistant bacterial infestations.

6. Loss of breast sensation, especially around the nipple area is reported, as well as hyper-senstivity to touch.

7. Capsular contracture can be very uncomfortable, to the point of severe pain and deformation.

8. Many women have experienced severe necrosis and other forms of breast tissue loss.

9. Many women have experienced serious autoimmune diseases post implantation including: rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, multiple sclerosis, Sjøgrens Syndrome (severe dry mouth, eyes, etc.), and lupus.
Those women with pre-existing compromised immune systems are now warned to avoid implants.

10. Disproportional numbers of implanted women have reported neurological and cognitive complications, as well as endocrine disruption including hysterectomies, miscarriage.

11. Children born of implanted women have experienced the same autoimmune conditions and have been seriously inadequately studied.

12. Breast implants often negatively affect the ability to produce milk for breast-feeding.

13. Health insurance carriers are routinely denying coverage for implanted (and explanted) women.

Ilena Rosenthal is the author of Breast Implants: The Myths, the Facts, the Women. Ms. Rosenthal has been connecting, supporting and educating women harmed by breast implants for over 5 years. As director of The Humantics Foundation for Women based in San Diego, she created and heads the largest Breast Implant Support Group in the world. E-mail: ilena@humanticsfoundation.com phone: 858-926-5505.

Total Health for Longevity Magazine November/December 2000, Volume 22, Number 6 pages 41-42

 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Many thanks to Ilena for allowing me to reprint her excellent article on breast implants. If you suffer with complications from implants I would strongly recommend joining her support group.

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