Archive for the ‘Breast Implants’ Category

August 20, 2013

Breast Cancer, Mastectomy and Breast Implants: A 20-Year History of Images and Attitudes

CBS Sunday Morning this week aired a segment looking at breast cancer and body image, especially women’s choices around reconstructive surgery and implants.

Artist and former fashion model Matuschka, whose self-portrait on The New York Times Magazine cover 20 years ago (Aug. 15, 1993) created a shock because it displayed her mastectomy scar where her right breast had been removed, describes her reasons for creating the image — wanting to start a conversation about breast cancer — and the backlash she received from readers who thought she brought shame to women.

The moment was compared to the reaction to Angelina Jolie’s recent decision to undergo prophylactic mastectomy, and current public attitudes about women’s breasts.

OBOS Executive Director Judy Norsigian notes how moneyed interests guide what is seen as narrow beauty ideals for women, and how that affects women’s choices about reconstruction after breast cancer surgery.

“We live in a culture in which large breasts are almost universally idealized,” said Norsigian. “We’ve had at the same time a huge industry that has burgeoned to promote the idea that women must have implants.”

(It was great to hear veteran reporter Martha Teichner, in her introduction to the segment, call the ninth edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” “the now iconic guide on women’s sexual and reproductive matters, and a gauge of social attitudes.” )

The segment also includes a clip of  7-year-old girls who are interviewed in “Absolutely Safe,” a documentary that examines the popularity of breast implants among ongoing controversies about implant safety. It’s disturbing to see how thoroughly these young girls have already received the message that bigger breasts are better and attract more attention.

Another resource mentioned is The Scar Project, a series of photographs displaying the bodies and scars of breast cancer survivors. The project generated some controversy earlier this year when Facebook began removing and banning some of the photos for allegedly violating Facebook’s policies on nudity; more details are provided in these posts at the Scar Project blog.


March 11, 2013

FDA Approves Silicone Gel Breast Implant Without Public Meeting

In late February, the FDA approved the Natrelle 410 Highly Cohesive Anatomically Shaped Silicone-Gel Filled Breast Implant for breast augmentation in women age 22 and older and breast reconstruction in women of any age.

It surprises us that the FDA did not hold a public Advisory Committee Meeting prior to approval. All we found was the press release, which notes the FDA based its approval on seven years of data from 941 women, a relatively small number:

Most complications and outcomes reflect those found in previous breast implant studies including tightening of the area around the implant (capsular contracture), re-operation, implant removal, an uneven appearance (asymmetry), and infection. In addition, investigators observed fissures (cracks) in the gel of some Natrelle 410 implants. This is a characteristic called gel fracture and is unique to this implant.

The issue was not reported in a six-year study of the Natrelle silicone gel implant, published in the August 2012  issue of  Aesthetic Surgery Journal.

That study was funded by Allergan (and led by a researcher who is a paid consultant, royalty recipient and stockholder in Allergan). Studies paid for by manufacturers are not uncommon, but it makes it harder to tell what sorts of biases there might be in the results. In this case, researchers noted that between 19 and 43 percent of women required additional surgery — the number varied by whether the implants were for augmentation, revision or reconstruction. The researchers also reported that between 5 and 14 percent of patients experienced an implant rupture.

The FDA also did not post approval documents online, so the seven-year data, which would possibly include newer research results, is not readily available to the public.

The FDA has long known about the temporary nature of silicone gel breast implants. In 2011, the FDA released a report on their safety, urging women to “assume that you will need to have additional surgeries” — a point the FDA reiterated in the press release announcing approval of the Naturelle 401:

“It’s important to remember that breast implants are not lifetime devices. Women should fully understand the risks associated with breast implants before considering augmentation or reconstruction surgery, and they should recognize that long-term monitoring is essential,” said Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

“The data we reviewed showed a reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness,” said Shuren. “We will be looking at the results from post-approval studies that will focus on their long-term safety and effectiveness.”

Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Women & Families, criticized the approval, questioning why a public meeting wasn’t held and noting that “Allergan has not done a good job of doing post-market studies once their implants have been approved.”

“It seems likely that the FDA decided it was better to hide this information than to make it public at a meeting where implant patients could talk about the health problems that have been caused by these implants,” wrote Zuckerman, who has written frequently about the safety of breast implants.

The FDA is requiring additional “post-approval” studies on several aspects of the Natrelle 410, including study of long-term outcomes in more than 2,000 patients followed over 10 years; rare adverse events in a study to include at least 11,500 women; collection of additional safety and effectiveness data; improvement of the format and content of the patient labeling; and analysis of implants that are removed and returned to the manufacturer.

The additional studies will help determine the risks of these implants. Unfortunately, the results won’t be known for years. In the meantime, women will have implants in their bodies  that have not undergone a rigorous review.


March 7, 2012

Pittsburgh, PA Folks – check out the Women and Girls Health Weekend

If you’ll in or around Pittsburgh, PA this weekend, we’d love to see you at the symposium on “Women, HIV, and the 40th Anniversary of Our Bodies, Ourselves,” featuring OBOS co-founder Judy Norsigian.

The symposium is part of Women and Girls Health Weekend coordinated by Educating Teens about HIV/AIDS, Inc. This Friday, there will be a screening of the breast implant documentary “Absolutely SAFE” with filmaker Carol Ciancutti-Leyva, then Judy will speak on Saturday. Registration is required.

Details on the Saturday event:

Saturday, March 10, 8:45 a.m.-2 p.m.
University Club, 123 University Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

“Women, HIV, and the 40th Anniversary of Our Bodies, Ourselves,” an inter-generational symposium featuring Judy Norsigian, executive director of Our Bodies, Ourselves; in observance of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the book that inspired the women’s health movement. $35 registration includes luncheon.

Presented by Educating Teens About HIV/AIDS, Inc. Co-sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and its Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology.


June 23, 2011

FDA Releases Report on Silicone Breast Implant Safety

Today, the FDA released a report on the safety of silicone gel-filled breast implants, including recommendations for both women who have or are considering the implants and health care providers.

In 1992, silicone breast implants were taken off the market after the FDA decided that the manufacturers had not adequately addressed safety concerns. In 2006, the agency approved several styles of silicone breast implants made by two companies, putting the devices back on the market for cosmetic purposes, and asked that the makers conduct additional safety studies. Today’s release provides recommendations based on information from the studies that have been completed so far.

The FDA concludes that implants are “safe and effective” when used “as labeled,” and that “Despite frequent local complications and adverse outcomes, the benefits and risks of breast implants are sufficiently well understood for women to make informed decisions about their use.”

Common local complications and adverse outcomes are listed as:

capsular contracture, reoperation, implant removal, and rupture or deflation of the implant. Other complications include wrinkling, asymmetry, scarring, pain, and infection at the incision site…Women with breast implants may have a very small but increased likelihood of being diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma.

Women considering implants are advised to be aware of the potential for these complications, and to have periodic MRI exams to detect “silent rupture” of the implant. These MRIs are supposed to be done at 3 years after implantation, and every 2 years after, which the agency warns “is costly and may not be covered by your insurance.”

The FDA materials also urge women to “recognize that breast implants are not lifetime devices” and “assume that you will need to have additional surgeries.”

The agency has provided this one-page consumer guide, Things to Consider Before You Get Breast Implants, a more detailed booklet on local complications and adverse outcomes, and a guide to questions to ask before getting implants.


January 27, 2011

Breast Implants and Possible Risk of Rare Cancer

This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released information describing “a possible association between breast implants and the development of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”

The FDA reviewed literature and related information from 1997-2010 and identified 34 unique cases of ALCL in women with either saline or silicone breast implants. This is a relatively small number, and the agency indicates that more data is needed to better understand any possible link between implants and the disease. As a result, the agency is asking healthcare providers asking to report all confirmed cases of ALCL in women with breast implants through the MedWatch Program.

A consumer update has been provided by the FDA – women with breast implants and no unusual symptoms are advised to continue monitoring their implants and to notify their physicians if any changes are noticed. They also advise that “women considering breast implants should be aware of the very small, but increased risk of developing ALCL and discuss it with a physician.”

Additional FDA Resources:


April 27, 2010

Exploring the Safety of Breast Implants: Carol Ciancutti-Leyva

View all Women’s Health Heroes. Voting closes May 14. Background info here.

Entrant: Melinda Bartlett
Nominee: Carol Ciancutti-Leyva, Director of “Absolutely Safe”

I nominate Carol Ciancutti-Leyva as a Women’s Health Hero for the 2010 Our Bodies, Ourselves Women’s Health Heroes awards. She is the director of “Absolutely Safe,” a documentary exploring the safety of breast implants in the United States.

Ms. Ciancutti-Leyva has a personal connection to her project, as she believes silicone breast implants contributed to her mother’s decline in health. According to the documentary’s website, “Absolutely Safe” does not set out to prove that all breast implants are harmful to women, but rather it explores both sides of the argument and puts forth all information pertaining to the safety of implants.

I admire Ms. Ciancutti-Leyva’s bravery to question implant safety in the United States. I admire her conviction to question what we have been told about breast implant safety by medical professionals, plastic surgeons, and those set to profit from breast augmentations.

I believe that women deserve to know whether there is a possibility that breast implants could be harmful to their health, and Ms. Ciancutti-Leyva is making great strides in creating a new discourse surrounding the absoluteness of breast implant safety.

Made in 2007, “Absolutely Safe” follows the stories of five women and their experiences with breast implants. Some women are considering getting breast implants; others want their implants removed, or have had their implants removed and yet still feel ill.

While some women in the film are excited about their upcoming surgery, others share their negative experience with breast implants, as the women explain how they felt sick after getting implants, and how their health has steadily declined. Many of the women believe that their implants have been detrimental to their health.

“Absolutely Safe” explores these issues and speaks with doctors and advocates on both sides of the argument. I nominate Ms. Ciancutti-Leyva for her advocacy on behalf of women everywhere.


November 23, 2009

Special Issue on Risks of Cosmetic Surgery

The current issue of the journal “Clinical Risk” has of a series of articles commenting on risk and cosmetic surgery, from reputation and regulatory risks to physicians to clinical outcome risks for patients.

Because the journal is based in the UK, much of the discussion of the regulatory environment is focused there, but the articles also address the trend of cosmetic surgery tourism between nations and general perceptions of and risks to patients seeking cosmetic surgery.

In the editorial for the issue, plastic surgeon Nigel Mercer writes that “We have reached a stage where public expectation, driven by media hype and, dare one say, professional greed, has brought us to a ‘perfect storm’ in the cosmetic surgical market.”

He also describes a “massive increase in ‘marketing’, including discount vouchers, 2-for-1 offers and holidays with surgery! In no other area of medicine is there such an unregulated mess. What is worse is that national governments would not allow it to happen in other areas of medicine. Imagine a ‘2-for-1’ advert for general surgery?”

Another author, Khoo, notes the “grey area between advice and advertising” when surgeons provide information to prospective customers (patients). Similarly, Bradbury writes that cosmetic surgeons should be prepared to decline to do procedures, to say “no” or “not now,” and should avoid pushing extra procedures on a client.

The idea that cosmetic surgery carries minimal risk is also criticized. Mercer writes that “the media and both published and broadcast ‘marketing’ have wittingly or unwittingly given the public the impression that cosmetic surgery procedures are quick fixes and carry no risk of downtime or complications. Nothing could be further from the truth and it defies common sense to think otherwise.”

The BBC has additional coverage of the issue. On a related note, The Guardian published a story last Friday on labiaplasty and the increase in the number of these procedures in the UK in recent years.


June 24, 2009

Breast Implants Should Require Informed Consent

Over at the Huffington Post, Marcia Yerman examines arguments surrounding the safety of breast implants, as presented in the documentary film “Absolutely Safe” — and efforts underway to require doctors to provide accurate information about breast implants.

Our Bodies Ourselves has teamed up with “Absolutely Safe” director Carol Ciancutti-Leyva and the film company Amaranth Productions to advocate for legislation that will require plastic surgeons to provide prospective patients with a  booklet outlining the risks, complications and unknowns, along with alternatives to reconstructive breast implant surgery.

As Yerman notes, such legislation is not without precedent:

[The] model for legislation is a New York State Law (State of New York – Article 24-E, Section 2499w New York State law) that required the state’s Department of Health to publish a booklet that must be received by every woman considering a hysterectomy. It succinctly outlines risks, complications, alternative treatments, and recuperation expectations. Presently, the FDA has a guide on breast implants, but it is not legally mandated that prospective patients receive it. The “FDA Breast Implant Consumer Handbook” was published in 2004. Ciancutti-Leyva told me that the information reads as “a cautionary tale.” [...]

The need for informed consent was addressed as far back as 2000, in an editorial appearing in the Fall issue of The Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association. Written by Nancy Neveloff Dubler, LLB and Anna Schissel, JD, it was entitled “Women, Breasts, and the Failure of Informed Consent.” The authors examined whether “informed consent for breast augmentation is too fragile a reed to withstand the storm of commerce.”

You better believe opposition will be strong. Last year I discussed a marketing campaign by breast implant manufacturer Allergan that recasts augmentation surgery as a feminist act — a choice women can make for themselves. Allergan actually says its “empowering” women with information about size and shape options. The company has one goal in mind: to increase the number of breast implant procedures from 400,000 per year to more than 1 million.

If you really want to do something empowering, get involved with the informed consent campaign. Leave a comment on Marcia Yerman’s story (a good way to help promote the piece at Huffington Post). Visit the “Absolutely Safe” website for more information about what informed consent means, and check out the film’s trailer below.

You might also want to bookmark Ciancutti-Leyva’s blog for the latest news about breast implant safety. Finally, the Politics of Women’s Health section of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” contains a good amount of information on breast implants, including articles and online resources.


February 14, 2009

Double Dose: Chemicals in Toyland; IVF Provides Clues on Nature vs. Nurture; Recession Affects Botox Sales; Happy Valentine’s Day …

Chemicals in Toyland: The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) took effect this week, mandating stricter enforcement of lead and phtalates in children’s products and toys.

“While the ban was hailed as a victory for children’s health, it’s no guarantee that the products are safe,” reports NPR’s “Morning Edition.” “That’s because companies currently aren’t required to publicly disclose the chemicals they use in place of phthalates — and little is known about the health effects of one of the most widely used alternatives.”

Pthalates have been shown to affect the development of the male reproductive system in lab animals. They’re also present in some cosmetics, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, food packaging and cleaning and building materials — making them almost impossible to avoid. Check out NPR’s timeline of phthalate regulation and an interactive look at chemicals in the home.

IVF – New Lab for Studies: “In addition to helping thousands of infertile couples have children, ‘test tube’ babies are offering scientists a novel laboratory for resolving one of the most vexing debates in science: nature vs. nurture,” writes Rob Stein in the Washington Post.

In the first study of its kind, British researchers have studied children conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) to examine whether children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy were more likely to develop behavioral problems because of the toxic effects of smoking — as has been suspected — or because their mothers passed on a genetic predisposition to antisocial behavior.

The study, which appears to debunk the notion that smoking’s effects on the brain of a developing fetus result in antisocial tendencies, could be the first in a series of attempts to use the approach to disentangle whether genes or various prenatal exposures are responsible for later behavioral problems.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Get “Booty” Injections: And definitely not from a woman who administers shots without a medical license. Two women are now hospitalized in critical condition in Tampa, Fla. “It almost is bootleg cosmetology here,” said sheriff’s office spokesman JD Callaway.

Plus: The economy is having some effect on cosmetic enhancements, reports The New York Times. Natasha Singer writes that doctors and pharmaceutical executives thought antiwrinkle shots like Botox would be resistant to the downturn, but the latest earnings report from Allergan, the maker of Botox, fell almost 9 percent compared with a year earlier. Allergan’s sales of breast implants were down 12 percent.

“You could forecast that with implants, but the bigger question was, ‘How have injectables been holding up?’” said Gary Nachman, an analyst with Leerink Swann, a health care investment bank. “Now, even the injectables have been impacted significantly.”

Maternal & Child Health in the Obama Administration: “[...] President Obama has lauded and pledged to expand presidential initiatives to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria — recognizing the sizeable effect they have had not only in saving hundreds of thousands of lives, but also in improving U.S. foreign policy. Now is the time for President Obama to elevate the issue of global family health to that high level,” argues Maurice Middleberg, vice president for public policy at the Global Health Council.

Council members, including global maternal health, child health and family planning organizations, are developing a framework for a Global Family Health Action Plan.

On Their Own Terms: “[B]etween the clinic demonstrations, the political discussions and the imprecations from the pulpit, too many American women have come to feel that their pelvis is public property. Slowly, quietly, a new abortion method has become part of the landscape, and it’s no accident that those women who have chosen it often cite reclaiming privacy and control as the reason,” writes Anna Quindlen at Newsweek, describing how RU-486 has allowed women to keep abortion private and personal.

Plus: Glamour magazine recently featured a whole section on abortion, acknowledging that one in three women will have at least one abortion by age 45. Eight women share their personal stories.

Salma Hayek Sparks Breastfeeding Discussions: By now you’ve probably heard about Salma Hayek breastfeeding an infant in Sierra Leone. ABC’s “Nightline” filmed Hayek during a trip to Africa to spotlight efforts to eliminate tetanus through vaccinations. The infant’s mother had no milk, so Hayek did what came naturally. Tracy Clark Flory nicely sums up some of the respectful and sophmoric public reactions.

Hayek, who is still breastfeeding her 1-year-old daughter, said, “I actually think my baby would be very proud to share her milk. And when she grows up I’m going to make sure she continues to be a generous, caring person.” Read more reactions and more about Hayek’s journey. The full “Nightline” episode is quite moving.

Happy Valentine’s Day: Some feminist advice from RH Reality Check. Plus, researchers at the University of Iowa report on what college-age men and women are looking for in a mate and how priorities have changed since the 1930s. While it’s nice to see that “chastity” is no longer an important characteristic, I’m surprised “similar political background” is considered unimportant as well.

And here’s the best act of defiance I’ve seen mentioned for Valentine’s Day — members of the Facebook group “A Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women” are encouraged to “Join us on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, the day on which Indian women’s virginity and honor will self-destruct unless they marry or tie a rakhi. Walk to the nearest pub and buy a drink. Raise a toast to the Sri Ram Sene.” Swati Prasad explains the rebellion against the right-wing Sri Ram Sene.


January 27, 2009

I Choose My Choice! Cosmetic Surgery and Roe v. Wade

OBOB readers may have heard about nonsociety.com, a site developed by internet celebrity Julia Allison and friends (if you haven’t, you’re doing just fine — really). I normally wouldn’t point to it, but Mary Rambin’s post — titled “My Body, My Botox” — deserves mention, if only to note that this is what passes for reasoning when it comes to cosmetic surgery. Fortunately, Amelia at The Frisky pretty much has the outrage covered.

On the subject of acceptance, Mary, who admits to starting Botox at age 23 for forehead wrinkles (she is 26 now), writes that while breast implants once had a stigma, today “women are proud to not only admit to this procedure, but some women will also rave about their doctors and ask you if you would like to feel his/her handiwork. Furthermore, as the NY Times pointed out the other day, boobs are now a standard high school graduation gift (and in my experience they have been for years now). Breast implants are now socially acceptable. ”

And to what do we owe thanks for this advancement? Here, with all its glorious typos, is the answer:

I site Roe v. Wade because it serves as a marker of people accepting (maybe not respecting) a woman’s right to choose. Although abortion is still an issue at the forefront, it’s notable the Supreme Court recognized women should be able to do what they feel is right for themselves.

Cosmetic procedures should be viewed in the same light. Not to mention the procedures are in no way effecting another human being, so the severity of the issue is considerably less. But as with breast implants, time will have to pass before others view cosmetic procedures as acceptable. I won’t say “the norm” because I do think artificial enhancement should carry with it serious consideration before you undergo any sort of procedure. Other things like manicures and pedicures, dental work, highlighting your hair, are all “procedures” that are completely unnatural but we consider normal.

And may God bless the United States of America!

(Commence head-banging.)


January 17, 2009

Double Dose: Mass. Mothers Get Breastfeeding Protection; NABJ Conference on Health Disparities; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Clinic; The Cutting Edge of Opera; Studies on IVF, Fosamax …

Who Decides? A State-by-State Analysis: NARAL Pro-Choice America has released its 18th edition of “Who Decides? The Status of Women’s Reproductive Rights in the United States.” The report summarizes the state of women’s access to reproductive healthcare nationwide, including legislation considered and enacted in 2008. This year’s edition also examines attacks on choice in the states and in the courts and highlights pro-choice legislative and non-legislative victories, including NARAL’s Prevention First initiative.

Trading in “Barefoot and Pregnant” for Economic and Reproductive Justice: “The relevance of barefoot and pregnant remains central to an inclusive and just America,” writes Gloria Feldt. “Economic parity and reproductive justice are still intertwined, not only in the lives of individual women; they are indivisibly connected to our economic recovery as well.”

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Clinic …: That’s the title of an essay in Exhale’s latest issue of its bilingual abortion zine, “Our Truths/Nuestras Verdades” (download the pdf). Yes, it’s the humor issue. As Exhale founder Aspen Baker writes in the intro to the issue:

Abortion is a serious personal issue that is hotly debated in public while real women have abortions in private, often in secret, and with little social support or understanding.

What could possibly be funny about that?

In this issue of Our Truths, we aim to find out. We witness funny women who use humor to get through tough times, truth-tellers who bust ridiculous myths about women who have abortions, and discover laughter that heals the soul. We also question humor that hides what’s real, judges or hurts others.

Check it out.

Massachusetts Adopts Breastfeeding Law: Massachusetts this month became the 48th state to offer legal protection to women who breastfeed their children in public. The Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition will provide mothers a “license to breastfeed” card with details of the new law and instructions on how to report violations, according to the Patriot Ledger.

The state Legislature passed the bill, “An Act to Promote Breastfeeding,” in December, and the governor signed it into law Jan. 9. Up to this point, women could have been prosecuted for indecent exposure or lewd conduct.

North Dakota and West Virginia remain the only states without breastfeeding legislation.

The Cutting Edge of Opera: “Skin Deep,” a new production opening in the UK, looks at the work of an unscrupulous fictional plastic surgeon: Dr. Needlemeier. At this BBC video slideshow, composer David Sawyer describes the opera as a story about “fear of death, vanity and the wish for immortality.” The “Skin Deep” website is far from superficial.

NABJ Conference on Health Disparities: The National Association of Black Journalists is hosting a conference on health disparities Jan. 30-31 at Morehouse School of Medicine.

The purpose is to “give journalists insight into health disparities affecting the African American community, resulting in significantly higher mortality rates. Learn how to cover major health and medical stories that make an impact. Topics include obesity, heart disease, stroke, HIV/AIDS, mental health and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.”

IVF Doesn’t Restore Fertility in Women Over 40: “A study involving more than 6,000 women who underwent the treatment at a large Boston clinic found that while [in vitro fertilization] could give infertile women younger than 35 about the same chance of having a baby as women typically have at that age, it could not counteract the decline in fertility that occurs among those older than 40,” writes Rob Stein at the Washington Post.

“Even as effective as IVF is, it can’t reverse the effects of aging,” said Alan S. Penzias of Harvard Medical School, who led the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “We cannot reverse the biological clock.” Here’s the study’s abstract.

Kidney Transplants Less Likely to go to Women: A new study indicates that women over 45 are significantly less likely to be placed on a kidney transplant list than their equivalent male counterparts, even though women who receive a transplant stand an equal chance of survival. The study appears online in the Journal of the America Society of Nephrology.

“As woman age, that discrepancy widens to the point where woman over 75 are less than half as likely as men to be placed on a kidney transplant list,” said lead researcher Dorry Segev, M.D., a Johns Hopkins transplant surgeon. “If the women have multiple illnesses, the discrepancy is even worse.”

Fosamax Linked to Two Diseases: “Two recent reports have linked the osteoporosis drug alendronate (Fosamax) with rare but serious side effects,” reports the L.A. Times.

“In a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine published Jan. 1, a Food and Drug Administration official reported that since Fosamax was first marketed in 1995, 23 cases of esophageal cancer in patients taking the drug — including eight deaths — have been reported to the agency. And a USC study published in the January issue of the Journal of the American Dental Assn. reported that nine patients who were taking Fosamax suffered osteonecrosis of the jaw — a bone-killing infection — after having teeth extracted at USC dental clinics.”


January 10, 2009

Double Dose: House Passes Bills Improving Access to Equal Pay; Blogging for Lesbian Health; Is There an Easy-Bake Oven in Your Vagina?; Nine Easy Steps to a New You (Ha!); And Much, Much More

Job Bias Bills Pass the House: The House on Friday passed two bills related to sex discrimination and workers’ pay. From The New York Times:

One, approved 247 to 171, would give workers more time to file lawsuits claiming job discrimination.

The bill would overturn a 2007 decision by the Supreme Court that enforced a strict 180-day deadline, thwarting a lawsuit by Lilly M. Ledbetter, a longtime supervisor at the Goodyear tire plant in Gadsden, Ala. Three Republicans voted for the bill.

The other bill — passed 256 to 163, with support from 10 Republicans — would make it easier for women to prove violations of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which generally requires equal pay for equal work.

President Bush threatened to veto both bills, saying they would “invite a surge of litigation” and “impose a tremendous burden on employers.”

The sentence that follows the Bush quote is the best: “Congress will not give him the opportunity.”

That’s because in less than two weeks there will be a new president in town who is enthusiastic about signing both bills.

Plus: Jill Miller Zimon has a good wrap-up and points to this NWLC page, from which you can contact your senator and urge support for these bills.

Health Issues at the Top of the List: Women’s eNews looks at the to-do list of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. In addition to reintroducing a bill to address heart disease in women, the Caucus intends to focus on human trafficking, sexual and domestic violence against women, women in the military and the backlog of DNA evidence in rape cases.

Lesbian Health Day & Summit: Jan. 5 was Blog for Lesbian Health Day. In response, Jane, a community health nurse and nurse practitioner student who blogs at Fallacy Findings, wrote an excellent post that includes discussion of “lesbian neglect” — which “refers to the fact that many lesbians fail to get Pap smears, do not get them regularly, and/or do not think they need to get them” — and lesbian health as a much-needed topic in nursing and medical schools.

The blogging event was organized as a lead-up to the National Lesbian Health Summit 2009 taking place March 6-8. Organized by the Lesbian Health & Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco, among other groups, the summit “approaches health issues from the perspective of those who face disparities and discrimination and who also generate health and resilience everyday. We will engage in deep thinking and extended discussion to create new responses and innovative programming that reflect our lives.”

Should a TV Doctor be Surgeon General?: Well looks at what health and science blog are saying in response to the news that Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and CNN’s chief medical correspondent, is Obama’s pic for U.S. surgeon general. Rachel weighs in with some concerns. Here are more links from Shakesville.

The Easy-Bake Oven in My Vagina: Over at Womanist Musings, a reflection on motherhood, race and class includes this gem:

How many of you have run across the vagina equals Betty Crocker syndrome? If you have not, then you probably soon will.  The education system seems to think that this is still 1950 and that mothers are at home with tons of time on their hands to participate in bake sales.  This request is never gender neutral, even though Daddy has two perfectly good hands himself.  Why is this still the norm when most women work a double day?  Even if a woman is a stay at home mother how does a vagina translate into the ability to bake? Do I have an easy bake oven stashed somewhere in my vaginal opening that I was not aware of?

Pull Up a Chair: On my to-do list was to write about the blog The Kitchen Table, a dialog between Princeton University professors Melissa Harris-Lacewell and Yolanda Pierce. Miriam beat me to it and sums up why it’s an essential read.

In this post, Harris-Lacewell discusses violence against gays and lesbians, in the context of the movie “Milk” and the brutal gang rape of a woman who may have been targeted because she is openly lesbian. She writes:

As much as I appreciated Milk, the story has the unfortunate effect of reinscribing an image of gay identity as primarily white, male, urban, and childless. The American imagination of “gay people” as childless, white, men living in cities can render invisible lesbian mothers of color like the woman attacked in Richmond. [...]

Harvey Milk understood that “straight folks” needed to feel our interconnections with gay men and lesbians. We have to know that our destinies our intertwined. We cannot be a great and free country while we sanction violence against and degradation of our neighbors. I consider it a sacred and politically necessary task to speak out for the rights and equalities of others, because they are not truly other. We are all one.

Information on sending contributions or cards of sympathy and solidarity is also provided. Four suspects in the case were arrested last week.

Eye-Rolling Quote of the Week: Ann Coulter refers to single motherhood as “a recipe to create criminals, strippers, rapists, murderers.” Remind me again why she is considered a suitable interviewee?

The Deeper Truth: A new study that looked at the five most popular women’s magazines in Canada found that articles commonly portray cosmetic surgery as an empowering option that improves women’s emotional health, even though there’s no scientific consensus that it does anything of the sort. Here’s Reuters’ take, and the abstract:

Content analyses show the articles tend to present readers with detailed physical health risk information. However, 48% of articles discuss the impact that cosmetic surgery has on emotional health, most often linking cosmetic surgery with enhanced emotional well-being regardless of the patient’s pre-existing state of emotional health. The articles also tend to use accounts given by males to provide defining standards of female attractiveness.

Inside the Medicine Cabinet: Chicago Tribune health writer Julie Deardorff lists essential items to keep in your medicine cabinet (courtesy of the American College of Emergency Physicians) and chemicals found in personal care products that you might want to consider keeping out.

Look Your Best in the New Year: Writing in The New Yorker, Amy Ozol reveals her secrets to “a trim and attractive physique” in just nine easy steps. She spent years perfecting this system, as you can tell. A sampling:

Step 5: Surround yourself with thin people. This will naturally encourage you to emulate their healthy habits. Weigh your friends on a regular basis, then weigh yourself. Do you have a friend who weighs less than you? If so, consider gastric bypass surgery.


December 26, 2008

Double Dose: Breast Reconstructive Options Not Fully Discussed; Connecticut to Fight New HHS Rule; FDA to Reconsider Risk of BPA; Plus the Top Stories of 2008 – Add Your Lists

First, An Important Announcement: Don’t burn the gift-wrapping paper. In case you didn’t know, it’s bad for you. And remember to check new toys for lead.

New Reconstructive Surgery Options Not Discussed: Women undergoing reconstructive breast surgery are often not told about the full range of options available to them, reports The New York Times.

For instance, there is a new procedure that involves transplanting a wedge of fat and blood vessels from the abdomen or buttocks, which would be refashioned to form new breasts. This procedure is more complex and less profitable for doctors than breast implants.

The story also mentions this language appropriation:

To raise awareness of breast reconstruction and to market it to patients, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has adopted the vocabulary of the movement to support a woman’s freedom to choose an abortion, adjusting it for women with breast cancer. Although women “don’t choose their diagnosis, they can choose to go ahead with reconstruction or not, and with the aid of a knowledgeable plastic surgeon they can choose what their options might be,” Dr. Linda G. Phillips, a plastic surgeon in Galveston, Tex., said in a telephone news conference organized by the plastic surgery society to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. “Then they have that much more power over their lives if they have that power to choose.”

But for many patients, the options may be limited because their doctors are not proficient in the latest procedures. Dr. Michael F. McGuire, the president-elect of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, said it is not unusual for surgeons to omit telling patients about operations they do not perform.

Single-Payer Health Care Unlikely: “President-elect Barack Obama said at a town-hall meeting in August that he would ‘probably go ahead with a single-payer system’ if he were designing a system from scratch. But that’s not anywhere close to what he’s been advocating,” reports NPR. Congress seems to feel the same way.

That frustrates single-payer health plan advocates like David Himmelstein, an associate professor at the Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, which has been advocating for a single-payer model since the late 1980s.

HHS Rule Could Override Plan B Protections: “New federal regulations, set to take effect Jan. 18, could override Connecticut’s law requiring all hospitals to offer rape victims emergency contraception, according to Attorney General Richard Blumenthal,” reports the New Haven Register. “Blumenthal said he plans to fight the federal rule, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It reinforces protections for health care workers and institutions that refuse to provide certain services, such as abortions, for personal reasons.”

Plus: Read more about the new “conscience” rule here. Its one of several Bush-era regulations women’s health activists expect the new Obama administration to overturn.

FDA to Reconsider Plastic Bottle Risk: In August, the FDA concluded that bisphenol-A, a chemical found in numerous plastic products, including baby bottles, water bottles and metal can linings, is safe, despite the fact that many scientific studies have found otherwise.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. As The New York Times reports, the FDA’s science board subcommittee on BPA found that the FDA was wrong to disregard research showing health effects even at extremely low doses. The FDA is now reconsidering its position — which it reached after relying on studies funded by the American Plastics Council.

“This was the F.D.A. finally acknowledging that its assertion that BPA is safe may not be correct,” said Dr. Anila Jacob, a physician and senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group. “Still, we don’t think it’s enough. With millions of babies being exposed to this chemical on a daily basis, every day we continue to delay removing this chemical from baby products is another day millions of infants continue to be exposed.”

And now, 2008 top stories …

*Any other lists or favorite stories you want to share? Add your links in the comments.


December 23, 2008

Dear Readers: Get “Absolutely Safe” With a Discount and Own the Film That Tells the Full Story About Breast Implants

Earlier this year we introduced readers to “Absolutely Safe,” a documentary about the safety of breast implants told through the stories of women whose choices intersect with health, money, science and cultural pressures that narrowly define beauty.

Directed by Carol Ciancutti-Leyva, the documentary was screened at a number of film festivals and on college campuses, and it received lots of praise (including from our own Judy Norsigian — Our Bodies Ourselves is one of the film’s main outreach partners).

It is now available on DVD, and the distributor is offering Our Bodies Our Blog readers a 15 percent discount on individual purchases. CLICK HERE and you’ll get $3.75 off the regular DVD price of $24.98. Multiple orders are permitted.

Plus, if you buy the DVD before Jan. 15, Our Bodies Ourselves will receive $3 for every DVD sold. A win-win for everyone.

Check out the trailer below and the “Absolutely Safe” website, which provides excellent background along with information on FDA regulations, statistics on who gets implants, and take-action suggestions — including tips from Our Bodies Ourselves on redefining beauty. The tips are also available at the OBOS website.


October 6, 2008

“Never Having to Wear a Bra Again”

Carol Ciancutti-Leyva, director of “Absolutely Safe,” a documentary on the controversy over the safety of breast implants, critiques a recent “Oprah” episode that discussed breast cancer and breast reconstruction surgery without mentioning the health risks associated with implants.

The title refers to something the actress Christina Applegate said during the episode. Applegate, 36, was diagnosed with breast cancer in July and underwent a double mastectomy after also testing positive for the BRCA gene.

Ciancutti-Leyva writes:

I applaud her openness and Oprah’s dedicating her show to this issue. Christina discussed her decision to have a radical mastectomy and her decision to be reconstructed with saline implants. She explained the procedure of getting saline implants after mastectomy, the placement of breast expanders, and the later implantation of saline implants. She then said “I’ll never have to wear a bra again.” That took my breath away for a second.

My mother went to the Mayo Clinic in the early 1970’s and she was told to have a radical mastectomy and have her breasts reconstructed with silicone implants. Her surgeon told her the same thing – “You’ll never have to wear a bra again!” Two years after that surgery her implant ruptured and she had it replaced. Very shortly after that it ruptured again. My mother has suffered a great deal of pain from the several surgeries, complications from the implants, and subsequent health problems. Not having to wear a bra was a very insignificant benefit given the many serious problems she had with her implants.

Now, one might say that this happened years ago and now implants are safer, the surgery has been perfected, and even the FDA has approved both saline and silicone implants. I think this is far from the truth. Somehow, the known risks, the known complications, and unknowns about the long-term safety of both saline and silicone implants are being lost. Don’t forget that the FDA and implant manufacturers fully acknowledge that breast implants carry known risks, like rupture and capsular contracture. The safety dispute emerges regarding the “unknown” risks like severe allergic reaction to the chemicals and platinum salts used in both saline and silicone breast implants.

Ciancutti-Leyva’s post also includes a statement from Our Bodies Ourselves Executive Director Judy Norsigian: “We know breast cancer patients want to make informed decisions, but that just isn’t possible when the necessary long-term research has not been done.”