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Breast Implants: Your Decision Essay, Research Paper

Breast Implants: Your Decision

In our society we have many and diverse values. One of the values is a woman s physical appearance. A woman s breast size often plays an integral part in her appearance to others and to herself. A woman s breasts are not simply just a part of her body but often for both men and women, they have come to represent femininity. Throughout a woman s lifetime her breasts may contribute to her sexual satisfaction, appearance, and self-esteem, yet many women are not satisfied with their breast size.

Since the 1940 s women have been trying various methods to increase their breast size for many reasons (Frontline). The society we live in puts great emphasis on appearance, so many women are self conscious about their breasts. Some women have elected to have breast implants after undergoing a mastectomy, yet others choose to have implants done strictly for cosmetic purposes. Since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has become involved in studying implants, rules and regulations have come into effect. The FDA, because of the side effects now limits people s options. For many women the benefits of having breast implants far out weigh the risks, and they should be able to make their own informed decision concerning medical procedures related to her breasts.

Timmie Jean Lindsay in 1962 became the first woman to receive silicone breast implants (Frontline). Silicone, gel implants, are made up of a plastic sac that is pre-filled with a clear, sticky, thick jellylike substance that is very close to the actual consistency of breasts. The problem with silicone implants is that they can leak, bleed, or rupture. When silicone leaks into the body it can cause hardening of the surrounding tissue. The biggest concern is about the relationship between the silicone in gel implants and autoimmune disorders such as scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus, and chronic fatigue syndrome. It is difficult to establish a clear link between these diseases and implants because it takes years for these disorders to develop. Years after receiving implants, many women have lost touch with their surgeons and therefore many of the problems go unreported (Bruning 50-51).

Saline implants are another alternative. They consist of a plastic sac that is deflated when inserted. After being put in place, it is filled with saline, a sterile salt water. Saline implants rupture more often than silicone thus needing to be replaced more often. The up side is that the actual saline itself is safe and won t cause your body any harm if it leaks. Another good thing about this type is that since they are implanted deflated a smaller incision is required so there is less scarring. The major complaint about saline implants is that they do not feel or look as natural as the silicone type and with people being so self-conscious, this can be a big issue.

The majority of women with implants have just the basic silicone or saline. There are a few other varieties out there. Double lumen implants are a combination of the two types. They are made up of two sacs, one inside of the other, and one of saline while the other is silicone. Another type is coated implants. In this case the implants are covered with polyurethane foam. However, the foam was found to contain a substance that can cause cancer in animals and is therefore no longer available. Now rather than being coated, many implants have silicone-textured surfaces designed to encourage the body tissue to grow into it (Bruning 32).

Many cases have been brought to trial over the years for the side effects of implants. Millions of dollars have been awarded to patients. All of these cases have caused more research into implants. Not enough extensive research has been yet done that compare women who have implants with women who do not to confirm a clear link between implants and autoimmune disease or other serious diseases.

After Dow Corning Wright conducted 329 studies on silicone implants, and 30,000 pages of documents were submitted there were still many concerns and unanswered questions. Due to concerns about the lack of information, in April 1992, the FDA decided to severely restrict the use of silicone gel implants. Because of the decision by the FDA, silicone implants are currently available for research purposes only. Women seeking implants for non-health issues are not eligible for the research. Those that are eligible only include women who are victims of illness, cancer, birth defects, or are in need for another medical reason. One outraged woman with cancer reacted to the limits placed on who can receive silicone implants by saying, Oh, so we re expendable! We ll probably die of cancer anyway , so let s experiment on us. It doesn t matter as much if an implant is dangerous (Bruning 14). Also unhappy with the FDA s decision, one of the noted plastic surgeons at the Mayo Clinic wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

It is inappropriate that thousands of women should be denied the opportunity for optimal results because of a very small minority of women with problems it is ironic that women continue to smoke, drink, and undergo abortions, all of which have very real and proven consequences to their health, while being denied implants.

In May 2000 the FDA approved the use of saline implants. As quoted by the Washington Post, FDA officials said they could not ignore the fact that despite the complications experienced by some women, the majority of those women after three years reported being satisfied with their implants. Included in the approval is the requirement that prospective patients be informed of the product failings. This way patients will be able to make decisions once they are completely aware of the possible consequences.

Despite the research done on the side effects of implants and all of the regulations placed on them, women in large numbers continue to elect for implants. With over 75% of women believing the ideal breast size is larger or smaller than their own, implants have helped project confidence in many women. Harvey, a plastic surgeon, has noticed that his patients, say their fuller breasts make them feel better about their bodies, more self-confident, and that they act more self-confident too. And when you project confidence, people react more positively to you (Bruning 27).

Women are allowed to choose what to do with their bodies when it comes to getting an abortion or not, which can be harmful. At the same time when it comes to deciding what to do with their bodies involving breast implants, the decision is not entirely up to them. Silicone implants could cause side effects, but receiving them, even for cosmetic purposes, should be considered as long as the patient is aware of what could go wrong. Since they are more natural feeling and looking than saline implants, and our society judges looks so critically, women need to be given the option to choose what type of implants to get. It is questionable to only allow the implants to be researched on recipients for medical purposes. How implants react to a healthy body compared to someone for instance who has cancer can vary. This so called research will never make conclusions on how implants work in healthy people who are getting implants just to look and feel better if they wont even let them get the implants. This is America. What about our freedom of choice?

Works Cited

Bruning, Nancy. Breast Implants: Everything You Need to Know. Alameda:

Hunter House, 1992.

Frontline. Breast Implant Chronology. 1998. PBS Online.


Kaufman, Marc. Saline Breast Implants Approved. The Washington Post 11

May 2000: C7.

Levy, Jerome F, And Diana Odell Potter. Your Breasts. New York:


Peacock, Mary. Sizing Up Breasts. Womenswire Online.


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