Health

PIP - one woman's story of replacing her leaking implants

  • 26 January 2012
  • From the section Health
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There are 40,000 individual stories from the women in Britain with PIP implants.

Debbie Lewis is one of them and she agreed to let us film her replacement surgery.

The 43-year-old hairdresser from Buckinghamshire decided to have implants about eight years when she and her husband separated.

She said: "I always wanted bigger boobs and when we separated I thought I'm going to treat myself."

The original surgery cost her £4,000 and within a year or so she'd had the implants changed twice.

This was because she experienced a known side-effect called 'capsular contraction', when the tissue around the implant hardens causing discomfort and distortion.

In November 2011 Debbie noticed a lump under her arm. She was told one of her implants had leaked into a lymph node.

Soon afterwards the PIP scandal erupted, with the French Government recommending all women there to have them removed.

Debbie says she could have opted to have her implants removed under the NHS -but it would have taken too long to organise.

She also said that she has lost so much breast tissue from previous implant replacement that she felt she had no option but to have new implants.

Her surgery cost £6,000 and she is not sure how she will pay for it.

"I have taken out two credit cards and I will have to worry about that later - what was crucial for me was to get these disgusting things out of me."

Her operation lasted one and a half hours. The swollen lymph nodes were removed and then the ruptured implant was taken out. Cosmetic surgeon, David Crawford said: "The implant shell looked like a thin beach ball. It was not a good quality product."

The silicone filler from the ruptured implant had turned yellow and begun to break up. By contrast the second implant emerged intact and undamaged. This underlines the dilemma facing women.

If scans suggest their implants are intact, should they opt for surgery? This is what's recommended by the French government, as a precaution. But a committee of experts here has suggested there is no need for routine removal

Debbie Lewis says she accepts that many people will have little sympathy for women who had PIP implants for breast enlargement - just one in 20 patients in Britain had the implants for reconstructive surgery following cancer.

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons has called for a ban on advertising for cosmetic surgery and said that it preyed on women in a vulnerable state, such as following a divorce.

"Rubbish" is Debbie Lewis' response. Despite all the problems she does not regret having surgery. "They've given me a lot of pleasure and self-confidence, for example going on the beach in my bikini."

She says she is looking forward to life without PIP implants and will now campaign to highlight the plight of women affected by the scandal.

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