Why are PIP implants called 'PIP'?
PIP stands for 'Poly Implant Prothese', a type of breast implant that used to be marketed, and used, for breast augmentation and reconstruction.
Why have I heard of PIP implants?
PIP implants are currently the focus of health concerns across the world.
Why are there such concerns about PIP implants?
PIP implants were made in France by the company 'Poly Implant Prothese'. They had gained a licence to manufacture the implant by going through strict controls, but were then discovered to have switched the silicone filler from a medical grade silicone to an industrial one (usually used in bed mattresses). The PIP company has been closed down by the French authorities, but in the meantime a large number of implants had already been used for breast augmentation and reconstructions. It is thought that there are approximately 30,000 women in France with PIP implants and 40,000 in the UK. The PIP implants were not sold in the USA.
What are the health risks of PIP implants?
PIP implants have a much higher risk of rupture (25%) than other implants, which can cause soreness, redness, burning, enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit, and a mis-shapen breast (due to the implant changing shape). There were concerns that they also may lead to a higher risk of developing cancer, but studies so far have reassured that this is not the case.
What sort of cancer can PIP implants cause?
At the moment, the UK Chief Medical Officer has said that there is no firm evidence that PIP implants increase any form of cancer. The fears, however, stem from a belief that there may be a link to Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, which is a rare form of cancer.
What is Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL)?
ALCL is a rare form of cancer and is not 'catching' or infectious. The symptoms include sweating at night, weight loss, reduced appetite, and swelling of the glands in the neck, armpit or groin (these syptoms can also be due to lots of other causes though). ALCL is usually treated with chemotherapy, with or without radiotherapy.
What is being done about PIP implants?
The French government has said they will pay for all PIP implants to be removed (but only pay for replacement if the implants were used for breast reconstruction). Other countries, including Sweden and Germany, have also recommended women to have the implants removed.
In the UK, the review by Sir Bruce Keogh concluded that there was not enough evidence to recommend the early removal of PIP implants. In contrast, the president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, Rajiv Grover, has recommended PIP implant removal, whether ruptured or not.
What should I do if I have PIP implants ?
You should contact the surgeon or clinic that put the implants in to discuss any concerns you may have. If you are unsure which implants you have, then your surgeon/clinic should be able to tell you.
If your clinic is unable or unwilling to help you, then the NHS has stated it will remove the implants for you. In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland patients can have their PIP implants replaced free of charge if they were originally placed in the NHS setting (but not if their original PIP implants were performed privately). The Welsh government has said it will pay for PIP implant replacement whether they were performed in the NHS or privately.
Can other implants also cause problems ?
Yes, but not specific to the concerns over PIP implants. Read our article on breast augmentation for more information.
You may also want to read our articles on:
Choosing a surgeon
More information on:
Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma
NHS health news
The information provided is as a guide only and you should discuss matters fully with your specialist before deciding on any clinical action. Please also read our disclaimer