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February 3, 2023

Putney’s MP Fleur Anderson is calling for an enquiry into the potential link between ‘toxic’ breast implants and cancer after one of her constituents alerted her to the scandal.

This week she took part in an Adjournment Debate on support for women who had received potentially harmful PIP breast implants. Tens of thousands of women across the country have been affected by the issue.

Ms Anderson led the first ever debate in Parliament on the matter after she was contacted by her constituent who has campaigned about the issue since herself becoming a victim.

The Putney MP outlined the ordeal suffered by PIP victims to the Minister for Women’s Health, Maria Caulfield MP. As a result, the Minister has committed to further investigating the links between implants and cancer.

The implants, made by French company Poly Implant Prothèse (PIP), were discovered in 2010 to have been made from non-medical grade silicone that was not cleared as safe for use in the human body. The silicone used in the toxic implants was typically used to fill mattresses.

The company PIP went into liquidation in 2010 and its founder, Jean-Claude Mas, was convicted of aggravated fraud and sentenced to four years in prison.

However, over a decade on, the health impact on women who received the faulty breast implants continues. Some women report a range of symptoms including intense pain, digestive and sight issues, and are demanding Government action to ensure such a scandal never happens again.

Many women who received the faulty implants were having reconstructive surgery after suffering from breast cancer and suffered many years of ill health, with a lack of information on their options regarding what had happened to them and whether they were entitled to implant removal on the NHS.
The NHS and the MHRA, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, currently state that there is no evidence to suggest that PIP implants pose a serious health risk, but that they can cause ‘unpleasant’ symptoms if they rupture.

But campaigners claim the NHS and MHRA have not changed their information on PIP implants since 2012, despite a wealth of evidence on women suffering extreme health consequences having emerged in the decade since.

The women who feel victim to the scandal have described feeling ‘gaslit’ by GPs who would say that it was ‘all in their head’ or that it was their age that were causing the symptoms they described. They report that sexism meant their cases were not taken seriously.

Ms Anderson said, “I am glad to have explained to the Government the horrendous ordeal that women with PIP implants are going through. When Jan - who co-founded the PIP Campaign - told me of her story at a local constituency surgery in Southfields Library, I could not believe that nothing was being done. 47,000 women across the country are affected by this appalling scandal, and it is important to highlight the tenacity, resilience and bravery of all those campaigning for justice. They are often victims themselves and dealing with chronic health problems.

“Campaigners have been asking for over a decade that the Government properly investigate the consequences of these PIP implants on their health. Victims have reported symptoms including extreme pain, inflammation, headaches, infections, anxiety, digestive issues, issues with their sight, severe exhaustion and low energy. I feel this is a clear example of sexism, with thousands of women being ignored and dismissed when reporting extreme suffering. They must be heard and action must be taken.”

She continued, “I have made nine clear asks of the Government. Action must be taken following an inquiry into this scandal and research into BIA-ALCL must be funded. The regulator must investigate whether there is a link between these implants and cancer. We need better health guidance from the Government for women affected, and the implants themselves must come with full and thorough health warnings.

“There must be a register for all those who have had implants, so there can never be such a lack of clarity about who is affected by a medical scandal again. The Government should offer to remove the implants on the NHS and ensure guidance is clear to women affected. The companies who wrongly sold these dangerous implants should be pursued for compensation. And finally, there must be a full and thorough inquiry into how this scandal happened, so that nothing like this ordeal can ever befall patients again.”

The Government Minister responsible for Women’s Health, Maria Caulfield MP, acknowledged the need for a response to the women’s demands.

Maria Caulfield MP said during the Adjournment Debate, “I take (Fleur Anderson’s) point about making that information more readily available. I also take her point about the black box labels that the FDA is using in the US, to see if we need to improve the information available for women.

“We need to support those women who have been affected, and I am happy to work with Fleur Anderson to make sure that that happens.”

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