Health

Cancer patients among thousands with ‘time bomb’ breast implants

Cancer patients who had reconstructive surgery are among those who have become ill as a result of the implants which were filled with industrial grade silicone which was not cleared for medical use.

Last week campaigners, scientists and MP’s called for an independent public inquiry into the scandal which allowed almost 50,000 UK women to be fitted with the faulty devices before they were banned in 2010 following reports of leaks and rupture.

Between 2011 and 2013 French and Swedish health authorities who conducted tests on the implants ordered the preventative removal of all PIP implants after the deaths of women with aggressive cancers caused by the devices – known as Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma – BIA-ALCL.

In 2012 Welsh authorities also offered to remove and replace Pip implants. In 2013 French regulators found one in four PIP implants were defective.

Victims have reported a range of mental and physical health problems, including generalised pain, inflammation, immune disorders, a variety of cancers, headaches, infections, anxiety, and fatigue. Many women suffered for years before linking their health issues to their implants. Victims say they are still experiencing problems getting the implants removed.

The British regulator – the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency – MHRA – insists the devices are safe and do not need to be removed unless they have ruptured.

However during the meeting held in parliament last Tuesday medical experts warned all implants leak and it is only a matter of time before they rupture and cause permanent health problems.

The British regulator – the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency – MHRA – insists the devices are safe and do not need to be removed unless they have ruptured.

However during the meeting held in parliament last Tuesday medical experts warned all implants leak and it is only a matter of time before they rupture and cause permanent health problems. They say the MHRA is basing its decision on flawed and outdated evidence.

Fleur Anderson, Labour MP for Putney, who chaired the meeting said: “I will be calling for an independent inquiry into the failure of the British regulator and other medical professionals in allowing these implants to be used and will be seeking to find out how many women are affected. We need to find out not only what should have been done, but what should be done now. We need to listen to all those affected.

“Regulators and companies have known these implants are potentially dangerous and since they were introduced tragically women have lost their lives. Many women are still living with a ticking time bomb today.”

She added: “This is a scandal similar to the contaminated blood scandal. Women have been let down by the regulators and clinics every step of the way.”

Professor Alexander Seifalian, a leading expert on synthetic materials used in the body who has studied the implants, told the meeting: “The longer these are in the body the weaker and less elastic they become, sooner or later they break-down. Looking at the data, PIP implants should be removed tomorrow for everyone.”

Professor Michael Coleman, toxicologist, who also spoke at the meeting said: “Some of the chemicals in these implants have been linked to abnormal cell behaviour, derangement of cellular processes and cell death. You would never be allowed to market a drug with such a level of impurity – it is bizarre to me that such toxins are allowed in an implant.”

The PIP scandal is one of the most noteworthy cases of medical negligence in history. The implants, made by French firm Poly Implant Prothèse (PIP), were found to be two and six times as likely to rupture than other brands. After concerns were raised about the safety of the implants the company was closed by police and its founder, Jean-Claude Mas arrested. He was convicted of aggravated fraud and sentenced to four years in prison.

FDA regulators prevented the implants entering the USA following an inspection of the PIP factory site near Marseille, France in 2000. However German regulators TÜV Rheinland kept PIP on the European and global market for further ten years before the French sounded the alert.

Jan Spivey, co-founder of the PIP Action Campaign said: “It is reprehensible that so many women with PIP implants have been left without help or duty of care.”

Professor Carl Heneghan, Director of Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence Based Medicine said: “The UK seems to be out of step with the rest of the world when it comes to detecting and assessing harms of such devices which are known to increase cancer risk. The regulators which allowed these devices on the market have to be held responsible for the problems caused.”

An MHRA spokesperson said: “We continue to monitor the safety of all breast implants to ensure the benefits outweigh the risks. We take appropriate action if further risks are identified and where necessary, communicate safety information to the public. Based on our analysis of the latest evidence and expert opinions, our advice remains unchanged.

“The PIP issue was a result of the use of a non-approved silicone in the production of the breast implants. Analyses of the silicone contained in PIP breast implants did not find evidence of a link to cancer.”

Lydia Bennett, 36 died from BIA-ALCL (Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma) in August 2019 after she had implants in 2006 for cosmetic reasons. The “loveable” former watersports instructor from Ramsgate, Kent, developed the aggressive cancer even though she had removed the implants in 2014 after hearing about the dangers.

Lydia died in hospital intensive care after her organs failed. Her mother Avril Bennett said: “These women have been desperately let down, they should be able to rely on help to remove them. Waiting for the implants to rupture before women can access medical care is shocking.”



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