Silicone Sources

There’s no shortage of information on silicone breast implants, particularly on the Web—from survivor’s sites replete with amateur poetry and religious sentiment to court documents in the Dow Corning bankruptcy—but sorting it all out can be a challenge. Keep in mind as you browse the Web—or even library shelves—that there are high stakes in the breast implant controversy, so it’s tough to get information from an unbiased source. Always check who’s behind the Web site, book, or research you are reading, and evaluate their conclusions accordingly.

Around the Web:

FDA Breast Implant Page If you can get past the picture of a dewy tulip on the home page—their hokey attempt to reach out to women readers, I guess—this FDA site has a wealth of information. Here you can find an information packet put out by the Department of Health and Human Services to help women make informed decisions about breast implants. There’s also a brief history of the controversy, lists of survivor support groups, instructions on how to report adverse reactions and other problems with medical products, and much more.

United Silicone Survivors of the World, Inc. You won’t find any fans of Dow Corning here. What you will find is a huge amount of resources mostly targeted to survivors. Funded almost exclusively by women who have had implants, the site features information on support groups across the globe, attorney listings, a wide range of research (from studies published in mainstream medical journals to anecdotal evidence from physicians), avenues for activism, reading lists, and a doctor database in progress. As with many breast implant sites, you will find that the sophistication of information varies greatly between topics.

Frontline: Breast Implants on Trial To follow up on their television documentary on breast implants which aired last February, Frontline has built a very thorough Web site. Of course you can order tapes and transcripts on the site, but much of the information is right there, including the history and chemistry of silicone, excerpts from Dow Corning’s package inserts which accompanied the implants from 1965 to 1985, links to research that both supports and negates the connection between implants and systemic disease, and position statements on implants from medical associations.

Court TV Online Interested in the corporate side of the story? Check out Court TV Online to follow the Dow Corning bankruptcy proceedings, as well as the progress of product liability cases against Dow and other companies. This site covers multiple suits involving breast implants—to get a sampling, run a search for “breast implants.”

Hotline

National Breast Implant Task Force Hotline Run out of the Florida home of breast implant survivor Janice Ferriell, this hotline offers phone counseling to women who experience problems with implants, as well as referrals to local support groups and doctors across the country. Call (561) 791-2625, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. EST.

In Print

Science on Trial: The Clash of Medical Evidence and the Law in the Breast Implant Case, by Marcia Angell, M.D. (1996, W.W. Norton & Co.) Skeptical about the medical problems associated with breast implants? So is Marcia Angell, executive editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. She’s taken quite a bit of heat from the anti-implant camp for her premise that much of the breast implant controversy is misinformation manufactured by hungry media and greedy plaintiffs’ attorneys. Whether or not you agree, her book offers a perspective different from much of what you will find on the Web: Rather than focusing on the science behind implants, Angells discusses the phenomenon of scientific evidence being adjudicated by the courts and the public.

Research Revisited

Women’s Health Cohort Study The largest study to date investigating the connection (or lack thereof) between connective-tissue diseases and breast implants was conducted by Harvard researchers and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last February. As discussed in Michael Castleman’s piece, the major drawback of the Harvard study is that it relied on self-reported information—that is, people saying they had connective-tissue diseases. Well, the researchers are on their way to eliminating this flaw, correlating the data from 1996 with actual medical records. Most of the data collection is complete, but a publication date for the results is unknown; to find out when and where they will be published, check in with the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Public Affairs Office (617) 732-5008.