Bianca Buono and Katie Wilcox, Arizona News 12 NBC: February 22, 2022
PHOENIX — Migraines. Headaches. Insomnia. Difficulty breathing. Trouble swallowing.
Robyn Towt survived three bouts with cancer. But it was breast implants that made her the sickest.
“I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me,” Towt said.
At first, it was a mystery. She had recently survived breast cancer then had a double mastectomy with breast reconstruction. The cancer was gone, so why was she feeling so badly?
“My entire team of doctors failed me,” Towt said.
Towt said her team of doctors never mentioned that her breast implants could cause those side effects. She started doing her own research, desperate to figure out why she was feeling this way.
Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, has been outspoken about the dangers of implants for years.
“One of the things that’s been so tragic for all these years is how many women got sicker and sicker and sicker, year after year after year, going to doctors saying what’s wrong with me and the doctor saying, you know, I don’t know, do these tests and try to figure it out,” Zuckerman said.
“And then they finally discover on social media, that there are tens of thousands of women with exactly the same health problems they have, who also happen to have breast implants, and then they get their implants out, and they get better.”
Zuckerman has been pushing for acknowledgment from the FDA that breast implant illness exists, advocating for more research around what exactly causes it and pushing for transparency when it comes to the risks.
She says the FDA took a step in the right direction last year when the agency announced breast implants would be equipped with a black box warning.
The FDA boxed warning informs patients of the following:
- Breast implants are not considered lifetime devices
- The chance of developing complications increases over time
- Some complications will require more surgery
- Breast implants have been associated with the development of a cancer of the immune system called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL)
- BIA-ALCL occurs more commonly in patients with textured breast implants than smooth implants, and deaths have occurred from BIA-ALCL
- Breast implants have been associated with systemic symptoms
“They’re going to have what’s called a black box warning, that’s like the kind of warning you see on cigarette packages that tell you cigarettes can kill you,” Zuckerman said.
Arizona’s first-of-its-kind bill
Even still, that warning wasn’t always relayed by plastic surgeons to patients. That’s why lawmakers in Arizona decided to take matters into their own hands.
“We have to do something,” said state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita.
Consultations for breast augmentations look different now in Arizona than they did a year ago.
That’s because a first-of-its-kind bill has passed in Arizona created to protect women against a badly kept secret involving breast augmentation surgery: breast implant illness.
“I was shocked to learn that there were so many women with very very similar stories and experiences. And yet there was nothing being done from the medical community’s perspective and point of view,” Ugenti-Rita said.
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