The Fit Student—Could Breast Implants Cause Disease?

“Many thousands of women were told that breast implants were safe and ‘would last a lifetime’”

(Kolb, location 147 of 3363, 4%).

As students, you likely don’t carry much cash.  Some broke AU femmes might ponder working part-time at pubs.  And some of these women may opt for breast implants.  But I urge you—do neither.  .  .  Did you know that breast implants might leave you stricken with silicone immune disease?

But what is silicone immune disease?

Let’s get it straight, you may not find silicone immune disease in any medical textbook.  Dr. Susan E.  Kolb in her book dated 2009, claims, “Patients are suffering from silicone immune disease, a new illness that has not been identified or characterized and for which laboratory tests confirming their diagnosis do not yet exist” (location 1010 of 3363, 30%).

So, what is this disease? According to Dr. Kolb, a pioneer on identifying the disease, and a sufferer herself, “Silicone Immune Disease can occur when silicone gel leaks outside the silastic shell of breast implants” (location 883of 3363, 26%).  So, if you have breast implants, should you fear this so-called disease?  Well, “a number of studies have shown that silicone implants are likely to leak within ten years of surgical placement, releasing free silicone into the body” (location 907 of 3363, 27%).  But ten years seems far off, right?  Be cautious as Dr. Kolb claims “symptoms from the newer generation of silicone implants may appear after only a few years of exposure, while the older implants typically took eight to ten years” (location 125 of 3363, 4%).

Dr. Kolb says she “receive[s] phone calls almost daily from women who begin to suffer health problems shortly after receiving implants ….  Based on the symptoms patients describe, [she] suspect[s] that some of these implants may be leaking or leeching chemicals” (location 795 of 3363, 24%).  I always wondered where leaked silicone goes: does the body sweat it out?  Or does the body eliminate it through defecation and urination?  I shudder when I recall a talk show guest whose breast implants ate through her skin.   Dr. Kolb claims that “when the silicone leaks from the casing, it migrates throughout the body, affecting every organ and system of the body” (location 895 of 3363, 27%).

What happens if your breast implants leak?  According to Dr. Kolb, “patients can present more than twenty symptoms, many of them vague, like muscle aches, chronic fatigue, and brain fog.  The illness progresses slowly over a number of years and can be difficult to diagnose.  Nonspecific diagnoses of arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia are common” (location 883 of 3363, 26%).  I believe I suffered chronic fatigue syndrome—and it felt hellish.  Some people with chronic fatigue syndrome wind up bedridden for years—even decades—unable to tolerate light or sound.

Many of Dr. Kolb’s breast implant patients “complained of fatigue, muscle aches, and mental clouding, which were common symptoms in a condition called fibromyalgia” (location 1202 of 3363, 36%).  Fibromyalgia shows similarities to chronic fatigue syndrome—both, in my mind, devastating diseases.  “Research, published in The Journal of Rheumatology, showed that women with ruptured implants had an increased incidence of fibromyalgia, a disease known to be associated with chemical toxicity” (Kolb, location 1033 of 3363, 31%).   The chemicals in a scented laundry detergent caused my brain to ache.  So, I threw out a hardly touched jug of the detergent.  But I shiver at the helplessness I’d feel if chemicals leached inside my body.  Dr. Kolb says, “Thirty-seven chemicals are used in making silicone implant gel” (location 977 of 3363, 29%).  And “since it is well known that chemicals can trigger autoimmune disease, it should not be a surprise to anyone that once these chemicals leak into the body, an autoimmune disease results” (location 999 of 3363, 30%).  To top it off, Dr. Kolb (2009) noticed that most of her breast implant patients who died succumbed to lymphoma.

In light of her discoveries, Dr. Kolb asserts, “The extensive effect that silicone and the chemicals contained in it can have on the neurological, immune and endocrine systems of the body was becoming increasingly clear to me” (location 1144 of 3363, 34%).

So, why doesn’t everyone know about the perils of breast implants?

Dr. Kolb suggests corporate interests keep research hushed on the risk of silicone implant disease.  “The irony here is that science, a field of endeavor designed to systematically uncover to the truth, has been used to sabotage the truth in the service of corporate survival” (Kolb, location 1109 of 3363, 33%).

Dr. Kolb claims research on silicone immune disease is riddled with biases.  “It is common practice for the institutions conducting the research into the safety of breast implants to receive endowments from the Dow Corning, Dow Chemical or other interested corporate concerns” (location 1010 of 3363, 30%).  As for “medical research on the problems with both silicone and saline implants … much of it was financed by the companies who were manufacturing and profiting from the industry and then carried out by plastic surgeons who were hardly objective in the matter” (Kolb, location 714 of 3363, 21%).

Dr. Kolb hints that more than just corporations may be complicit: “Even the federal government, including the FDA and Institute of Medicine … are heavily influenced by the corporations involved in the manufacturing of the very products under consideration.  Much of the research that has been done in this area has been done by the research and development divisions of the corporations themselves or in academic or medical research facilities endowed by the same corporations” (location 1022 of 3363, 30%).  So, if you do academic research, pay close attention to any biases linked to your funding.

What can you do if you have breast implant disease?

To address silicone immune disease, Dr. Kolb developed the Silicone Immune Protocol.  “The Silicone Immune Protocol addresses diet, exercise, nutrients, inflammation, immune function, detoxification, pain, infection, nerve pain, fatigue, insomnia and miscellaneous conditions” (location 1180 of 3363, 35%).  In my view, though, prevention offers the best remedy—don’t ever get breast implants.

But the other side disagrees.

A report titled Safety of Silicone Breast Implants says, “There was insufficient evidence to establish that either saline or silicone breast implants caused systemic health effects” (Kolb, location 761 of 3363, 23%).  Other reports say the same.

But Dr. Kolb questions whether studies on an unidentified disease can be deemed trustworthy.

As well, Dr. Kolb claims that “the scientific studies the FDA reviewed only followed women with breast implants for three years after implantation and four years ….  [But] the shell starts to break down eight to ten years after implantation, so any study that does not follow the women’s health for more than ten years is seriously flawed” (location 1057 of 3363, 31%).

And the debate continues.

Even if breast implants are deemed safe, I say stick with nature.

Kolb, Susan E.  (2009).  The Naked Truth About Breast Implants: From Harm to Healing.  Minnesota: Lone Oak Publishing.

[This column is for interest and entertainment purposes only. The author is not medically trained or certified and you should alway seek professional medical advice from a qualified practitioner in matters of your health]

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