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Medics calm fears over French-made breast implants

By Lisa Smyth

Health officials in Northern Ireland have moved to allay growing fears over the safety of breast implants at the centre of a major health scare.

It comes as French health minister Xavier Bertrand said that although the implants made by French company Poly Implant Prostheses (PIP) were not linked to cancer, there remained a risk they could rupture and leak silicone gel.

He recommended that the 30,000 or so women who have them should get them taken out “as a preventive measure not of an urgent nature”.

The French state said it would foot the bill for the removals.

But the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) said it was not echoing the French advice, as there was no evidence to support it.

A DHSSPS spokeswoman said: “There is no reason for women in Northern Ireland to be alarmed about PIP silicone gel breast implants.

“The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has commissioned toxicity testing on the implant filler and concluded that there is no associated safety issue.

“It has also reviewed available evidence for association with cancers in women with breast implants and has concluded there is no evidence to indicate any association.

“These findings provide no indication for routine removal of PIP silicone gel breast implants. But women with any anxieties or questions should make an appointment with their implanting surgeon to discuss their concerns.”

It is not known whether the implants have been used in any NHS operations in Northern Ireland hospitals.

Meanwhile, the chief medical officer in England, Sally Davies, said women with PIP implants should not be unduly worried.

“We have no evidence of a link to cancer or an increased risk of rupture,” she said.

“If women are concerned, they should speak to their surgeon. I will be writing to GPs so that they are aware of the concerns women may have and can talk them through with their patients.

“While we respect the French government's decision, no other country is taking similar steps because we currently have no evidence to support it. Because of this and because removing these implants carries risk in itself, we are not advising routine removal of these implants.”

Health experts will continue to examine any further evidence from France and across the world on the issue and the Government will keep the situation under close review, she added.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency pointed out that there was no evidence of any disproportionate rupture rates other than in France.

A spokesman said: “We therefore do not believe that the associated risks of surgery from breast implant removal can be justified without further evidence.”

The painful legacy of ruptured silicone

A former Miss Great Britain has told of her nightmare after her PIPS implants ruptured.

Gemma Garrett, who lives in Belfast with her husband, must endure painful medical procedures. The 30-year-old model paid £4,500 for implants at a private clinic in London in March 2008.

In 2009 she noticed a lump in her left breast and felt ill.

Last May a Harley Street specialist told her she had PIP implants, they had ruptured, and they needed to be removed straight away.

She said: “When I came round the surgeon was shaking his head and saying: ‘I can’t believe they did this to you’. He said he had done what he could, but some silicone had fused into my breast. He said he had taken pictures of the inside of my breasts in case I wanted to take legal action.

“I felt a million times better as soon as they were taken out. I now have huge cavities where the implants were. Every six weeks, I go to hospital, have a needle inserted and the blood which has filled the cavities drained. It’s painful and unpleasant. I’m told the cavities will close eventually.”

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