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Are Implants Really Unsafe?

More and more women aren't waiting for the answer.

More Research Needed on Safety

But critics of both types of implants argue that not enough research has been done to assess the risks. Diana Zuckerman, Ph.D., Executive Director of the National Center for Policy Research for Women and Families in Washington, D.C., hopes to see long-term studies of several thousands of women to determine any risks conclusively. Zuckerman cites one 1997 study from Washington University's School of Medicine that found the incidence of infection from breast implants was significant and that more research was warranted. The FDA panel agreed, recommending more long-term studies on women who have had breast implants, as well as testing to see why implants leak or rupture and need to be replaced.

However, Gold is quick to counsel his patients that reoperation is a natural part of an implant. "No implant, not even a heart valve, is permanent. You will almost certainly have to replace it," he says.

Committee Requests Disclosure Form

Although the FDA advisory committee recommended saline's continued presence on the market, it also asked that the FDA devise a standard disclosure form to be given to women before implant surgery. The form would include risks, as well as leakage and reoperation rates. "All possible data on risks and benefits should be given to women," says panelist Nancy Dubler, L.L.B., a bioethicist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "The [disclosure] should be very stark and very informative."

Faussett finds some reassurance in the panel's suggestions. Ironically, just weeks before she spoke in front of the panel, Faussett's stepdaughter called asking for help to pay for her own implants. She didn't know of her stepmother's ordeal, but once she heard Faussett's story, she changed her mind about getting the implants. Spreading the word about both sides of getting implants is just what Faussett's been fighting for.

Priya Giri is a writer in San Francisco.

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