Breast implant scandal: How thing of beauty caused such fear

Your questions on faulty PIP breast implants answered

Q: What is wrong with the implants?

A: The implants are filled with non-medical grade silicone and there have been reports the protective barriers are faulty. A lawyer representing women affected said some of his clients had complained of inflammation, fatigue and fibromyalgia, a musculoskeletal pain disorder. But the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said results from its testing confirmed there was no evidence of genotoxicity (potential for cancer) or chemical toxicity of the filler material inside the implants.

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Q: What did the MHRA recommend?

A: It said on 20 December there was no evidence to support removal of the implants and advised concerned women to seek clinical advice from the surgeon who carried out their operation.

Q: What have the French authorities said?

A: On 23 December, they advised the 30,000 or so women with the breast implants to have them removed “as a preventive measure” and said they would foot the bill for the removals.

Q: How did the British government react to this?

A: It said it would not follow suit, as there was no evidence to support the French advice. Chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies also pointed out that removing the implants carried a risk in itself. On 31 December, the government announced a review of risks. But yesterday it said there was no evidence to recommend the routine removal of PIP implants from about 40,000 women in the UK. Experts agreed there was no link with cancer and were not been able to establish if the rupture rate was higher for PIP implants than for others, it said.

Q: Does this mean the implants are not toxic?

A: Not necessarily. The government said it was not confident that the manufacturer did not change the silicone in the implants, so cannot rule out the possibility that some are toxic.

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Q: What support is available to women with the implants?

A: The 5 per cent of women who had their implants on the NHS as part of breast reconstruction surgery will be able to have them removed and replaced if they are concerned, and following consultation with their doctor. The government said it expected private firms to offer the same deal to anxious women who also wish to have their implants removed.

Q: How have the women affected reacted so far?

A: More than 270 women in the UK have said they are planning legal action.