Breast Implants


One of the first uses of silicone in a medical implant came in the form of
lifesaving tubes implanted into young children to funnel excess fluid from the
brain into the chest cavity, where the fluid could be safely metabolized and
excreted. Since these "shunts" were first used, in the late 1950s, silicone in
various forms has come to be an important part of many implants. "It is used in
tracheotomy tubes, in artificial lenses for the eye, in artificial heart valves
and in facial implants for birth defects or re-constructive surgery after
cancer" (Ames 1).
The most widely used implementation of silicone is through breast re-
constructive surgery through elective surgery of an individual, or re-
constructive surgery to replace breasts due to women recovering from
mastectomies from breast cancer or miscellaneous types of accidents.
The early history and use of implants showed no ill effects of the use
of paraffin or silicone. Because of this newly developed surgical process and
relatively little use of FDA guidelines there was no comprehensive testing done
to ensure the utmost safety of a silicone recipient.
By this time the millions of women throughout the world who already had
Dow\'s silicone prosthesis implanted into their breasts had no idea of the
dramatic health risks. Because of these potential health risks, women should
avoid the use of breast implants.

In 1976, Congress gave the FDA authority to regulate breast
implants. By this time breast implants had been in use for a
significant amount of time and were considered "grandfathered."

This means that they were allowed to remain on the market, even though they
have not gone through stringent testing. The FDA felt there was no evidence to
substantiate that the implants were harmful. Furthermore Congress also gave the
FDA the power to go back and require manufactures to provide proof that the
implants were indeed safe and effective, if it was felt that there was a reason
to do so. (Bruning 7)
"In 1977, Richard Mithoff, a Houston attorney, wins the first lawsuit
for a Cleveland woman who claims that her ruptured implants and subsequent
operations had caused pain and suffering. She receives a $170,000 settlement
from Dow Corning. This case received little publicity" (Frontline 1).
Since this case received little attention women from all walks of life
still continued to seek out cosmetic surgery.
In 1982 the "FDA proposed to classify silicone breast implants into a
Class III category that would require manufacturers to prove their safety in
order to keep them on the market" (Frontline 2).
It wasn\'t until 1990 that heavy media exposure began to unveil the
possible links between silicone breast implants and various types of toxic
disorders. Connie Chung of Face to Face of this same year confronted Dow
Corning executives who vehemently denied any link to toxic disease from their
silicone implants (Frontline 2).
For better or worse, we live in a society that puts great emphasis on
appearance. This preference apparently knows no boundaries. In the 1940\'s,
"Japanese prostitutes had their breasts injected with substances such as
paraffin, sponges and non-medical grade silicone to enlarge their breasts,
believing that American servicemen favor women with large breasts" (Frontline 1)
this is the case today as-well.
During the 1960\'s breast implants made a boom as women discover that
there rolls in the job market can be increased by the way they look. With the
help of the sexual revolution women also found it pleasing to create a better
them through breast enlargement. Not only was there a desire for women to seek
this type of elective surgery, but prosthetic medical use for breast implants
was increasing dramatically from women suffering from breast cancer.
Many women have conflicting images of their breasts. On the one hand,
breasts are symbols of beauty, sexuality, and nurturing; on the other, they are
troublesome organs that are increasingly likely to threaten women\'s lives. In
the United States the likelihood that a woman will be found to have breast
cancer has slowly and inexorably mounted since the 1930s, when some systematic
data collection began. The increase in diagnoses, already a cause for concern,
accelerated in the 1980s, growing by a rate of four percent a year. This year,
according to the American Cancer Society, some 184,300 women will discover that
they have the disease; another 44,300 will die of it. Of the women in whom
cancer is diagnosed, 9,200 will not yet be forty--nearly twice the number of
women under forty who were found to have breast cancer in 1970. "The disease is
now the leading cause of death for American women aged forty to fifty-five, and
causes women to