Daily my phone rings and my email overflowswith urgent and painful calls from women just awakeningfrom the ether of their breast implants. Although theirfirst surgeries may have been decades ago, they are finallyemerging from the web of deceit that their plastic surgeonsand the silicone manufacturers have woven through the mediafor years in a brilliant, expensive public relations coupof enormous proportions.
Now reality has struck as they joinscores of thousands of ill and disfigured women in learningthe hidden truth - theircherished 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 thoughtor studied for 47 years brought me to November, 1995 whenI created a Newsgroup (alt.support.breast-implant) on theInternet to provide an International Forum to discuss thisperplexing issue and create a place for the women to connectwith each other. I had no idea of the depth, breadth, orwidth of the Pandora's Box I was opening.
Five years later, after unknown thousandsof communications from women, doctors, loved ones, attorneys,supporters and tormentors alike, I admit I am no longerwithout bias. I now know that ahuge fraud has and continues to be committed on women,and the background on this issue reads like a non-fictionespionage bestseller.
No stranger to plastic surgery (firstnose bob during my Dallas high school years) I do not now,nor have I ever had implants. There, but for the grace ofGod go I. A few million of our sisters have made that choicefor a variety of reasons.
However, two common denominators remainthe same -- they were always assured they were "safe"and the "risks minimal," and eerily, they havecome up against a medical establishment unwilling and unableto cure their illnesses.
In 1992, after 30 years of unimpededmarketing, the FDA finally banned silicone gel implantsfor most women. Because of the lobbying of the manufacturersand plastic surgeons -- who flew in around 400 women tolobby Washington DC on their behalf -- women post-mastectomywere and are still allowed to get these unproven, highlyrisky medical devices.
Even though early studies were resurrected,long hidden by the manufacturers, provingthey knew that their implants would break, immunereactions would occur, the gel would migrate, and even moredisturbing, could cross the placenta and affect the unbornfetuses, almost never did this information make it to thewomen it could have protected.
They also hired visible spokesdoctorsto 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 debilitatingautoimmune diseases suffered in disproportionate percentages.
In fact, the Executive Editor of theNew England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marcia Angell, choseto publish two very flawed, small and short studies fundedby those who stood the most to gain by the results. Shethen promoted and defended these studies as if they weregospel in her pro-manufacturer book, Science on Trial, andflooded the media with this corporate science while brandinga scarlet "Junk Scientist" on any doctor who daredto dispute the "experts."
This PR campaign includes labeling thewomen "crazies" and their leaders and supporters"fear mongers" and "wackos" so desperateare they to destroy the credibility of any of us who daredto speak out on the dangers. The result is that for years,women have been lulled into a false belief, that they hada 95% chance of being rupture free. The contrary is true.
Alarming, indisputable evidence wasreleased in October 2000, when the FDA published a landmarkstudy of implanted women, many still without symptoms. Thisobjective work revealed that 69%of these women had at least one ruptured implant,most without any knowledge of it, although implanted a mediantime of less than 17 years.
Other studies had already revealed overa 90% chance of rupturewithin 20 years.
Hardly, the "lifetime" productthey were promised.
The coverup continues to fall apart . . .
Dr. David Feigal, director of the Centerfor Devices and Radiological Health at the FDA, said itso clearly, "When it happens to you, the rupture rateis 100 percent." By January 2000, over 127,000women had written the FDA about the serious complicationsfrom their silicone gel implants.
The tragedy is that still today, theyare unable to get good medical care as the majority of doctorsrefuse to believe the connection. Even worse, doctors don'thave a clue what to do to heal these assaulted immune systemsand rid women's bodies of the dozens of dangerous ingredientsfound in implants such as platinum, silica, formaldehyde,plasticizers and organic solvents.
Implant formulations were frequentlychanged -- shells and gel thicker then thinner then thickeragain -- and "new and improved" was marketed sooften, it appears silicone merchants believed their ownhype.
In the 80's, as "the" answerto capsular contracture, over 100,000 women received gelimplants with polyurethane foam glued to them. Not onlydid the foam disintegrate, often within just weeks of implantation,but it broke down into TDA, a known carcinogen, decadesago removed from hair dyes.
These women are amongst the most ill,and even when these dangerous implants were hurriedly takenoff the market in 1991, no recall or even courtesy callwas made to warn the implanted women.
The most recent implant disaster wasexported to Europe, where well over 5,000 women, mainlyin Britain, were implanted with soy oil filled implants,unlovingly known as "tofu titties." The Americanprotocol for this product required this new round of female"lab rats" to be past childbearing age, but somewhereon it's way across the Atlantic, this requirement was dropped.
Health advocates and cautious scientistswere warning of the serious potential dangers but were ignoredand the "experts" made fortunes implanting themeven in very young women. Their bubble burst as shockingreports and the rancid soy oil leaked out in Spring of 2000,and all the women were advised to have them removed as quicklyas possible.
The damage to many had already beendone. Now, like the millions with failed gel implants, theyare faced with yet another difficult decision, should theyreplace them with saline filled implants? Is Saline theSolution?
From her wheelchair, Jackie Strange,the former Deputy Postmaster General of the United Statesspoke of the destruction of her life at hearings by theInstitute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciencesin Washington, DC.
Infections, peripheral neuropathy, anda myriad of autoimmune diseases struck in both rapid andslow succession following her implantation with saline filled,silicone implants. Concurrently, the manufacturers and plasticsurgeons were creating a multi-media blitz touting salineimplants from billboards, glossy magazines and TV. Withads reminiscent of "You've come a long way, baby,"young women were featured praising their implants and plasticsurgeons did the Talk Show circuit assuring women that salinewas "natural" and leakage benign.
In Spring, 2000, in spite of over 50,000reports of serious adverse reactions from water-filled implants,the FDA made the fateful decision to give their highly valuedstamp of "safety approval" on two brands of salineimplants, declaring them "safe enough." How canthis be?
The manufacturers own studies show thatwithin just the first3 years, nearly 40% of post-mastectomy patients had to haveadditional surgeries with these implants.
The complication rate for these womenis around 80% in just 4 years time. After cancer, invasivesurgery to remove the tumors, often radiation and / or chemotherapy,the body is simply not strong enough to handle this foreigninvader.
Even for women wanting implants justfor augmentation to boost their self-esteem, the complicationrates are staggering. Glamour Magazine, in their November2000 issue published a full page photo revealing a salinefilled implant, entirely black with aspergillus niger andother fungi.
Breast Cancerand Implants - No Easy Answers
Nearly 200,000 American women -- oursisters, mothers, teachers, lovers, daughters, friends --will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Cancer andimplant survivor, retired Professor of Health Education,Henrietta Farber, recently summarized the feelings of manywho know, "The cancer was challenging.
The implants almost killed me."While the manufacturers press releases rage "The CaseAgainst Implants Collapses," and try to close thisugly chapter in medical history, the women, now united,have a plan of their own. With the health of women and theiroffspring at stake, Martha Murdock, Co-Founder of the NationalSilicone Implant Foundation in Dallas, with four generationsof her family affected by silicone toxicity, says it best,"It's not over 'til we win."
Risks ofBreast Implants
1. Implants can rupture during mammography.
2. Implants make routine self examsand mammography more difficult. More views arenecessary, meaning additional radiation each time.
3. Implant rupture can go undetectedfor years and silicone is known to migrate through the lymphsystem 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, especiallyaround the nipple area is reported, as well as hyper-senstivityto touch.
7. Capsular contracture can be veryuncomfortable, to the point of severe pain and deformation.
8. Many women have experienced severenecrosis and other forms of breast tissue loss.
9. Many women have experienced seriousautoimmune diseases post implantation including: rheumatoidarthritis, scleroderma, multiple sclerosis, SjøgrensSyndrome (severe dry mouth, eyes, etc.), and lupus.
Those women with pre-existing compromised immune systemsare now warned to avoid implants.
10. Disproportional numbers of implantedwomen have reported neurological and cognitive complications,as well as endocrine disruption including hysterectomies,miscarriage.
11. Children born of implanted womenhave experienced the same autoimmune conditions and havebeen seriously inadequately studied.
12. Breast implants often negativelyaffect the ability to produce milk for breast-feeding.
13. Health insurance carriers are routinelydenying coverage for implanted (and explanted) women.Ilena Rosenthal is the author of BreastImplants: The Myths, the Facts, the Women. Ms. Rosenthal hasbeen connecting, supporting and educating women harmed bybreast implants for over 5 years. As director of The HumanticsFoundation for Women based in San Diego, she created and headsthe largest Breast Implant Support Group in the world. E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org: 858-926-5505.
Total Healthfor Longevity Magazine November/December 2000, Volume 22,Number 6 pages 41-42
Many thanks to Ilena for allowingme to reprint her excellent article on breast implants.If you suffer with complications from implants I would stronglyrecommend joining her support group.