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

July 11, 2014

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]

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.

Screenshot from "Absolutely Safe"
Screenshot from “Absolutely Safe”

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.

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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