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Why tighter regulations are needed for Breast Augmentation

The recent scandal surrounding PIP breast implants has forced the government to consider whether or not tougher regulations are needed when it comes to cosmetic surgery. The problem became apparent when spot checks uncovered the fact that silicone used in PIP implants was not medical grade. By then it was too late – thousands of women had already had the prosthesis implanted into their bodies.

In December 2011 the French government advised all PIP patients to have their implants removed. While the British government gave no such advice initially, women on this side of the Channel were still understandably worried. What is particularly concerning is that this particular type of implant was being used for 12 years before anybody noticed there was a problem.

The other reason breast implant providers are angry is because without a thorough regulatory system customers won’t be able to trust that something similar won’t happen again. While those within the industry might know about the safest techniques and the most reliable prosthesis to use, most customers usually aren’t so knowledgeable, often deciding on surgical procedures based on cost rather than who’s performing the surgery and what is being implanted into them.

While a report into the PIP scandal concluded that the silicone used did not pose a long-term threat to health, this has not gained the same level of press coverage – ‘PIP implants doesn’t pose serious health risk’ is not a headline that sells papers after all. Regardless of the fact that the implant isn’t a long term threat, it does not excuse the fact that it should never have been implanted into women’s bodies in the first place. It will also not be a comfort to those women that had to undergo corrective surgery, some at huge cost to themselves. So yes, tighter regulation is needed, if only to highlight those procedures that are relatively safe, so that patients are given the care they deserve.

The recent PIP scandal has shown that patients having Breast Augmentation from commercial clinics have less protection than someone buying a kettle. When they were oversold and coerced by advertising to have this surgery by clinics in a very financial sensitive environment, few were given a 2 week cooling off period, and few were told that they should have finances in place for a second operation in the future. Both of which were advised by the last advisory but not regulatory initiative on Breast Augmentation from the Department of Health. Few were advised that when things went wrong they were on their own and essentially there was no maintenance available, even though any surgery involving implants (eg hip and heart and breast) will require maintenance long term.