Concerns Raised about the Safety of Breast Implants

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The Channel 4 Dispatches programme which aired on Monday 24th of June saw concerns rise about the safety of breast implants. Dispatches investigated the impact of breast implants, whether some women's implants are making them ill and revealed that over 250 women are preparing to bring a class action over possible links to breast cancer.

Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has indicated it is willing to re-examine whether there is any link between breast implants and a variety of symptoms suffered by women.

Discussing their willingness to investigate the impact of implants, an MHRA spokesperson said: “I think it’s entirely reasonable that book should be opened again now, and we and our advisory group are already looking at the evidence around this and we would be eager to learn more from patients, particularly about their experiences in this area.”

Patients have complained for decades about what is generically known as breast implant illness as coined by patients but it is not officially recognised in the UK because the medical profession has been unable to establish a link.

Symptoms associated with what is referred to as Breast Implant Illness vary but can include; choking, heart palpitations, brain fog, rashes, hair loss, joint pain, anxiety, depression.

Presenter Abbie Eastwood had breast implants put in when she was 25, “My hair fell out, I had memory fog, aches and pains, utter exhaustion. I had to stop work. I spent whole days in bed.” After her Doctors told her she had rheumatoid arthritis she found an American website, hosting 70,000 women with the same symptoms and realised it could be her implants.

But this year, the American regulator, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed its stance and said, “while the FDA doesn’t have definitive evidence demonstrating breast implants cause these symptoms, the current evidence supports that some women experience systemic symptoms that may resolve when their breast implants are removed.” And that they are “taking steps to better characterise the condition and its risk factors.”

Azhar Aslam, a private surgeon working on Harley Street, discusses the results of the 3,000 explants he has performed. “Anecdotally almost everyone said they were feeling better. Almost everyone who I did then and even patients we are doing now, they say they feel better.”

An NHS spokesperson said: “While there isn’t currently any clinical evidence that these symptoms represent a new kind of illness, women experiencing them should seek advice from their GP at the earliest opportunity.”

In April this year, the French regulator banned a particular type of implant, made by six manufacturers, as a precautionary measure. The implants banned have a highly textured shell known as a macro textured shell.

Two of the brands, whose highly textured implants are banned in France, are popular in Britain: Nagor and Allergan. Nagor’s implants are still on sale in the UK, to private clinics and the NHS. But Britain’s most popular implant range, Allergan’s Biocell, has had its license suspended and the products have been recalled. Surgeons have been advised not to insert Allergan textured implants from December 2018 in the UK.

Despite the media attention over the recent weeks on there has been no change in scientific evidence. The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) advises for concerned patients not to take any action as this current stage until more evidence is gathered. Patients should continue routine checkups at which their questions and worries should be discussed, but avoid impulsive surgeries such as the removal of exchange of breast implants as unnecessary surgery may cause additional harm in a small number of patients.