Silicone controversy: a survey of women with breast cancer and silicone implants.
BACKGROUND: During the past 3 years, there has been a highly publicized debate concerning the potential medical complications of silicone breast implants. There have been no studies that have addressed the effect of this controversy on women with a history of breast cancer who have undergone breast reconstruction with silicone implants. PURPOSE: This study was undertaken to understand the concerns of such women regarding their breast reconstructions and to assess what impact the silicone implant controversy had on them. METHODS: One hundred seventy-four randomly selected women who had undergone reconstructive surgery with silicone implants subsequent to mastectomy for treatment of breast cancer were interviewed by telephone from February through May 1992. (A moratorium on use of silicone breast implants, imposed by the Food and Drug Administration, extended from January through April 1992.) These women, a subset of 359 mastectomy/reconstruction patients of one university-based plastic surgeon, had their first permanent prostheses placed between 1985 and 1990. The interview included questions designed to elicit information about women's experiences with reconstruction and reactions to the controversy. RESULTS: All study participants were aware of the controversy surrounding silicone implants. Seventy-six percent stated that breast reconstruction helped them cope with cancer, and only 16% had regrets about reconstruction. Many respondents had misconceptions about the nature of possible complications from silicone implants. Fifty-five percent were worried about the implants, yet only 13% considered having them removed as a result of the controversy. Only 27% indicated they would be completely likely to choose silicone implants again. The majority of women were unwilling to accept substantial risks of complications from implants, but there was variability in the level of risk that respondents would tolerate. CONCLUSIONS: A majority of women who have had breast reconstruction using silicone implants after treatment of breast cancer believe that implants helped them cope with the cancer. However, a sizeable proportion of such women are worried about possible medical complications that may develop as a consequence of silicone breast implants. Many would likely not choose these implants today. IMPLICATIONS: The true risks associated with silicone implants will ultimately be known. In the meantime, health care providers need to address patients' concerns about these implants. Information and guidance regarding the potential benefits and risks of breast implant devices should be provided to women with breast cancer who are considering treatment options.
Winer, EP; Fee-Fulkerson, K; Fulkerson, CC; Georgiade, G; Catoe, KE; Conaway, M; Brunatti, C; Holmes, V; Rimer, BK
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