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French Government to Recall Breast Implants After Possible Cancer Link but UK Government Says Risk is Minimal

Posted on the 21 December 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
French government to recall breast implants after possible cancer link but UK government says risk is minimal

Breast implants under scrutiny. Photo credit: Zoha n,

French authorities have issued an alert over a brand of breast implant they say could cause cancer. Eight women who received the Poly Implant Prothese (“PIP”) implants have been diagnosed with cancer and another has died of lymphoma, reported the BBC, although no definitive link has been found. The implants are also more likely to split and leak than other kinds. It is expected that the French government will announce a recall of the implants, which will involve tens of thousands of recipients being called in for surgery.

The implants scandal has rocked France, with police opening a criminal investigation after thousands of complaints were filed. The Telegraph reported that PIP was shut down last year after it was found to have been using an industrial-grade silicone more commonly associated with computers than with medical procedures.

But the PIP scandal isn’t confined to France, as the implants have been used on women around the world. And unlike the French authorities, British health officials have said there is no need for the estimated 50,000 UK recipients to have their implants removed as the link to cancer cases has not been proven. Who’s right?

Surgery is risky. Jeremy Laurance pointed out in The Independent that removal surgery would carry risks and that most breast implants are carried out by private surgeons who work on the profit principle: “It could be safer and cheaper to leave them where they are”, he said. Laurance said that the likelihood of long-term damage from the implants is low, unless they rupture. According to Laurance, there are suggestions that the French reaction is based on the discovery of a legal loophole that makes the government liable for the faulty implant.

Four hundred thousand to 500,000 French women have breast implants, according to The Guardian, although the number of women having the surgery has dropped since the PIP scandal.

British women deserve better. The Daily Mail took a different slant, focusing on reports that the French government is prepared to foot the bill for the removal of the implants: “The lack of any similar scheme in the UK has led to accusations that British women, including breast cancer survivors, are being left in limbo.” The Mail said that if the UK government didn’t intervene, British women would be forced to pay out tens of thousands of pounds “as well as the trauma of additional surgery.”

In other breast-related news, an American woman’s implant was swallowed into her body during a Pilates class, according to The Daily Mail.

Don’t judge women who have implants. “If the implants had been put into animals there would be no reason to judge them, but people feel they don’t have to take this situation seriously because it’s about a bunch of vain women who wanted bigger boobs”, wrote Margaret Hartmann at Jezebel, ahead of the French government’s decision. Hartmann pointed out that the PIP implants were cheaper than other kinds, which means many of the women who received them had “scraped together the money for surgery” and so cannot afford to have them removed without government assistance.

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