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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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."
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
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,
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:
for Longevity Magazine November/December 2000, Volume 22,
Number 6 pages 41-42