From time to time, people approach me with topics that I feel will interest you. While I had a lumpectomy and did not need implants, I have so many friends who have undergone breast reconstruction and have had resulting complications. The following is a guest post on this topic from Charlie Shavargo, LCSW, a social worker and a freelance writer who specializes in body dysmorphia and cosmetic surgery cases.
The cosmetic surgery industry makes $10 billion every year, with more than 10 percent coming from breast augmentation. So it’s not much of a surprise that, when faced with the threat of billions of dollars lost in class action lawsuits, implant manufacturers found a way to buy their own version of the truth.
In 1992, a moratorium was placed on silicone implants when lawsuits related to silicone poisoning started becoming more prominent. In reaction to this, the FDA had a third party conduct a clinical study to determine their safety. This wouldn’t be all that bad if the third party was a reputable unbiased company; but the study was conducted by Allergan and Mentor (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson), both major manufacturers of breast implants.
What was the result? Although their decade-long clinical study is still in progress, so far the verdict has been that silicone breast implants are “reasonably” safe.
If you look at clinical studies that weren’t funded by big corporations with an agenda, however, you’ll quickly see that it has been known for quite some time how dangerous silicone can be once it reaches your blood stream. For example, back in 1952 silicone was fed to rabbits, resulting in “widespread toxic effects including kidney and spleen damage within four months.” (Stanford Medical Bulletin, 10:1 , 23-26) Two years later, Dow Corning (which is now an implant manufacturer) conducted their own trials and found that the silica in silicone has a high level of toxicity, and that silicone leaking from a breast implant is equivalent in toxic effect to directly injecting it intravenously.
Breast implants proved to be too lucrative to be inconvenienced by a little thing like silicone poisoning, so the study never saw the light of day until very recently when it was released. Breast implants hit the market under the pretense that they were completely harmless in 1961.
Fast forward 50 years, and we’re finally starting to see the truth. According to Breastimplants.org , the effects of silicone poisoning have manifested itself in symptoms ranging from headaches and allergies to scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, dermatomyositis, swollen lymph glands, hair loss and sunlight sensitivity. Lawsuits are building as more people become aware that silicone is the culprit of their mysterious ailments, and more doctors accept the fact that silicone does have adverse effects on the body.
There is hope, though, for women with silicone breast implants. Doctors at the University of Alabama found that 50 percent of the “103 of 142 women who attributed a variety of symptoms to their implants reported improvement in their health after removal of the implant.” (Annals of Plastic Surgery 34:1 [January 1995], 1-6.)
So at least we know that a lot of its side effects are reversible. The only question left is how much longer of this will it take for the mainstream to realize that silicone is, in fact, not all that harmless for your body.
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed here are of our guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of this blog’s creator. We welcome your opinion on this topic.