Are Breast Implants “Absolutely Safe”? OBOS Keeps Focus on Health Risks

By Judy Norsigian |

As New York subway riders know, advertising for breast augmentation is on the rise, with more explicit imagery than ever before. These ads are obviously good at attracting attention, but not so much when it comes to providing information. They never describe the risks, nor do they acknowledge the potential complications that can arise from breast implants.

For all the facts, read this updated and expanded article that addresses the known risks and answers such as questions as what happens when breast implants break, do breast implants make women sick, and what if I need to get my implants removed.

In addition, OBOS is working with the National Center for Health Research to ensure that health insurance policies cover treatment and breast implant removal when it is medically necessary. If you, or anyone you know, had a health insurance policy that refused to pay for medically necessary treatment related to breast implant problems, please contact: info [AT] breastimplantinfo.org

Screenshot from "Absolutely Safe"

Screenshot from “Absolutely Safe”

We’ve developed a Take Action center to track denials of coverage, and to explain what you can do to help educate yourself and others about breast implant safety.

For the past few years, OBOS has partnered with filmmaker Carol Ciancutti and university faculty and students to arrange screenings of “Absolutely Safe,” a documentary film about breast implants. Carol and I attend as many of the screenings as we can, serving as facilitators for the conversations afterwards. Students also learn about the challenges in making a documentary like this one.

We’re eager to visit more schools and communities, and we encourage you to reach out to your local college or a community group that might sponsor a screening. OBOS can provide the DVD at no charge and will work with organizers on the logistics. Simply tell your friends and colleagues to contact us to let us know of their interest.

“Absolutely Safe” presents a follows the stories of two women. From the film description:

27 year-old Deneé Dimiceli has long been insecure about her breast size, and she’s frank about why: a deep envy of pop culture icons and images of big-breasted women. Although her husband likes her breasts as they are and does not want her to take any risks by having surgery, Deneé chooses to go ahead with breast augmentation. Step by step, the film follows Deneé through the implantation process. With the help of renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Franklin Rose, Deneé becomes the “Full C” she has longed to be. Months after surgery, Deneé is happy and healthy, though she initially lost sensation in her breasts.

As Deneé makes the choice to get breast implants, we meet Wendi Myers who has spent years longing for a life without implants. After suffering unexplained illnesses for years — dizziness, hair loss, fatigue — Wendi believes her silicone implants are making her sick and that they are ruptured, even though the implants appear to be intact. With the financial help from her mother and the surgical skill of Dr. Edward Melmed, one of the few plastic surgeons in this country who argues that implants have severe flaws and cause illness in some women, Wendi makes a unique choice — to have her breast implants “ex-planted” and removed from her body forever. The remnants of Wendi’s implants, are an alarming discovery for Wendi and her family.

Viewers also meet plastic surgeons who are for and against the surgery, members of the FDA Advisory Committee that deliberated on the matter of putting silicone gel breast implants back on the market, and women who have suffered from silicone implants — including Carol’s mother. Here’s more about why and how Carol undertook this project.

The popularity of breast augmentation has tripled since 1997. Almost 300,000 women and teenagers underwent surgery to have their breasts enlarged with silicone or saline implants in 2013, and another 100,000 breast cancer patients had reconstruction after mastectomy, often with implants, as this article notes.

Yet many questions about long-term safety remain unanswered. “Absolutely Safe” is unique for taking an open-minded, personal approach to the challenges women encounter as they find themselves at the confusing intersection of health, money, science and beauty. We hope you’re interested in organizing a viewing!

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5 Comments

  1. tamara says:

    Is a breast ultrasound a confirmative study of visualizing a ruptured breast implant and is there a national registry to confirm the type of implant prior to 1990?

  2. For saline breast implants, a rupture is usually obvious because the implant deflates. For silicone gel implants, it may be impossible to tell without a good diagnostic test. Usually, a breast coil MRI is the most accurate test, and even that must be read by a physician who is very experienced at detecting ruptures. A breast ultrasound can confirm if a breast implant is ruptured, but very few physicians in the world are skilled enough to do so. Unfortunately, there is no national registry.

  3. nanci cooley says:

    hello I happened upon this website because I was inquiring about why plastic surgeons refused to acknowledge the dangers. I had Pay New augmentation done in 2010 after 19 years of saline implants. I chose in 2010 to go with the silicone since they had been brought back on the market and were deemed safe. For the past 5 years I have seen my health deterioratING. it first started with some fatigue and joint and my knees and my neck shoulders back extreme joint pain in my hips and my knees anigue has gone through the roof my fatigue has gone through the roof with daily naps that I can’t wait to get to. I have brain fog unbelievably. I’ve been extremely knowledgeable and educated person and I can’t seem to recall anything worth value anymore. I also have swollen areas on my body that are not due to any type of injury. my muscle and tendon soreness is constant. I have constant ringing in my ears and blurred vision. Let’s face it I have all the signs of fibromyalgi yet of course nothing comes up on my blood test that would point toward that. My blood tests are completely healthy. So now I’m seeing a plastic surgeon to have my breasts removed this Friday. She does not believe at all that my symptoms are due to an implant and has even refused to order me a blood test that would show any silicone in my system. I got my OBGYN to order this for me instead. I am basically on my own to figure out what’s happening to me and I will get to the bottom of this and I will pursue any legal action I possibly can get involved in. I was lied to. I should have gone with my gut feeling which was to put saline back in since I had had no issues with it before. I am having them replaced with failing at this time. It’s very frustrating to have the doctors look at me like I’m crazy and insane interesting though have very few plastic surgeons that are women actually have breast implants. I think they read between the lines. But we refuse to address it. Too bad they’re sold out to their system and unwilling to really take care of the women who are suffering. If you have any information that would help me please address this thank you so much for your time. Oh by the way I used to be extremely active a Sales Director in Mary Kay earning paint Cadillacs and winning trips and prices. I used to go go go ride horses play tennis all of this right now is exhausting to even think about. So sad these dang things ruined my life and there were people behind allowing it

    • lori soller says:

      Nanci Cooley, I am so glad to find your article and many others. I wrote two letters to The Doctors Show, one letter i sent was returned with a message that I thought for sure i was going to be on the show. I sent pictures of my deformed ruptured implants that i know for a fact have been leaking for at least 20 years. For many years I did not have insurance to get them out. The last 6 years I have been to several specialist, psychiatrist, from test to test, doctor to doctor, working full time to one day a week needing a nap everyday, thought I was losing my mind, things moved,(like I didn’t just put that there) because i do not remember anything, my chest hurts all the time, I am out of breath barely moving or talking, I never want to do anything, I never have any energy. I stopped gluten, sugar, tried exercising for months, no change, bodyached more. ALL TESTS OKAY Tomorrow, I Am calling my doctor. I want a lung biopsy, lymph node biopsy, blood test,urine test for platinum. I wrote to The Doctors Show they sent me an email asking for me to send pictures, I did. They asked me more questions. I told them how I’ll I was and how we need to let the public know. They replied back that the producers could not make a story out of this. I sent them a second letter begging them to make a story about how my breasts augmentation and liposuction were done by a physician not board certied under general amnesia and I woke up. Plus he left me deformed .1982

  4. Rachel says:

    Plastic surgeons do advise all the dangers and the things to avoid during and after a breast augmentation surgery. I have been a bystander once for a friend who got hers from Dr. Marcus Neissen of Toronto. I have seen her get advises and even go through several counselling sessions. You cannot typecast all surgeons.