KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- The Food and Drug Administration is studying risks associated with breast implants following a hearing last week where dozens of women from across the country shared horror stories of breast implant illness.
Kansas City native April Zimmerman testified at the hearing in Washington D.C.
She wants to warn other women who have breast implants or are thinking of getting them so they don’t have to go through what she went through. She wants more research done on the risks associated with breast implants and better education for women and doctors about the risks.
“I thought I did a lot of research, I thought I understood some of the risks,” Zimmerman said. “I would like other women to know that the risks are actually a lot more than what manufacturers have led to doctors to believe.”
Zimmerman was a runner in the best shape of her life when she got her breast implants in 2012.
She says her doctor told her they were a new “safe silicone” that would not bleed.
After years of deteriorating health including hair loss, memory loss, unexplained fevers, rashes, and headaches, she was diagnosed with Lupus.
“I didn’t attribute it to my breast implants. I had no breast swelling, I had nothing localized that would say hey this is the cause,” said said. “As a woman, it’s kind of hard to talk about those, being a personal thing. My doctors were aware, but we didn’t regularly bring it up. They never brought it up.”
In 2017, after her health deteriorated to point she could not longer run, she finally asked for an MRI.
The MRI revealed shell of her right breast implant had dissolved and she had silicone in her lymph nodes and axilla.
Zimmerman’s health improved after she got her implants out, but she struggles because silicone is still left in her lymph nodes.
“I wish that the doctor would have really sat down with me and said hey I understand you’re healthy but these are the things you’re going to have to look for ahead of time. Not just right after your surgery,” she said.
The panel at last week’s FDA Panel heard testimony from women with similar stories to Zimmerman, as well as researchers, plastic surgeons, and implant makers.
KCTV5 asked the FDA what happens next and they sent us the following statement:
“The FDA convened this meeting to promote sharing of information and perspectives from all interested parties in light of the growing science around breast implant benefits and risks and to discuss whether the FDA should take additional actions. We believe this is an important discussion to have and to hold in a public setting. We appreciate all the patients, caregivers, doctors, researchers, manufacturers and FDA staff that participated in this thorough and thoughtful discussion about breast implants. The insightful feedback and deliberations will help inform the FDA’s own thinking as we consider ways to promote informed benefit and risk discussions between patients and their providers, and what, if any, additional steps should be taken to improve breast implants safety. We are committed to continuing our communication with the public about breast implants and will share any updates in the near future.”
The FDA’s website lists a lot of risks associated with breast implants, including a form of cancer called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma. It also lists symptoms more broadly known as breast implant illness. Researchers are investigating the symptoms of breast implant illness to better understand their origins.
FDA LIST OF BREAST IMPLANT RISKS: https://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/BreastImplants/ucm064106.htm
The FDA wants women who have had problems they believe are associated with their breast implants to report them with a form on their website, or by calling 1-800-FDA-1088.
MEDWATCH VOLUNTARY REPORT: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/medwatch/index.cfm?action=consumer.reporting1
“We are hoping that doctors hear us and partner with us to make everything safer. Because women’s health matters. It really matters,” Zimmerman said.