Carol Ciancutti-Leyva, director of “Absolutely Safe,” a documentary on the controversy over the safety of breast implants, critiques a recent “Oprah” episode that discussed breast cancer and breast reconstruction surgery without mentioning the health risks associated with implants.
The title refers to something the actress Christina Applegate said during the episode. Applegate, 36, was diagnosed with breast cancer in July and underwent a double mastectomy after also testing positive for the BRCA gene.
I applaud her openness and Oprah’s dedicating her show to this issue. Christina discussed her decision to have a radical mastectomy and her decision to be reconstructed with saline implants. She explained the procedure of getting saline implants after mastectomy, the placement of breast expanders, and the later implantation of saline implants. She then said “I’ll never have to wear a bra again.” That took my breath away for a second.
My mother went to the Mayo Clinic in the early 1970’s and she was told to have a radical mastectomy and have her breasts reconstructed with silicone implants. Her surgeon told her the same thing – “You’ll never have to wear a bra again!” Two years after that surgery her implant ruptured and she had it replaced. Very shortly after that it ruptured again. My mother has suffered a great deal of pain from the several surgeries, complications from the implants, and subsequent health problems. Not having to wear a bra was a very insignificant benefit given the many serious problems she had with her implants.
Now, one might say that this happened years ago and now implants are safer, the surgery has been perfected, and even the FDA has approved both saline and silicone implants. I think this is far from the truth. Somehow, the known risks, the known complications, and unknowns about the long-term safety of both saline and silicone implants are being lost. Don’t forget that the FDA and implant manufacturers fully acknowledge that breast implants carry known risks, like rupture and capsular contracture. The safety dispute emerges regarding the “unknown” risks like severe allergic reaction to the chemicals and platinum salts used in both saline and silicone breast implants.
Ciancutti-Leyva’s post also includes a statement from Our Bodies Ourselves Executive Director Judy Norsigian: “We know breast cancer patients want to make informed decisions, but that just isn’t possible when the necessary long-term research has not been done.”