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Transcript Of Connie Chung interview--Dec. 10, 1990

CBS Interview concerning the dangers of breast implants.

Transcript Of Chung interview--Dec. 10, 1990
Date: Fri, 17 Sep 1999 08:16:12 -0700
Taken from evidentiary disks/BMS 28413
Misspelled names are as they appeared in the transcript.
December 10, 1990
9:00-10:00 PM (CT)
Connie Chung

Connie Chung, host:
Most of us know little about breast implants. We've seen the ads; we've heard the rumours about which celebrities have them and which don't. But we don't know anything about the dangers. Since the early 1960s, some two million women have had breast implants. It's a simple device; the most common ones look like this: it has an outer shell made of silicone, with silicone gel on the inside. The operation takes a few hours, and if all goes well, the implants should last a lifetime, at least thats what most women believe, but not the women we interviewed. In fact, it couldnt be further from the truth.

Dr. Douglas Shanklin (Pathologist, University of Tennessee at Memphis): Nobody came out and said, We have an announcement to make. We're about to experiment on two million American women. But from a certain view, thats what's happened. We have done a large-scale clinical experiment on an unproven, probably unsafe medical device which is placed inside the body where the body can react.

Chung: For almost thirty years, American women have been getting breast implants. An astonishing average of three hundred and fifty implant operations a day. But whats shocking is that these devices have never been approved by the federal government. Only now is the government looking at the dangers. For some women, it may be too late.

Judy Taylor (Breast Implant Recipient): I knew many women that have had implants, many women. And, you know, I've asked, How did it go?. You know, Were there any problems, you know, how does it feel? Do they hurt? And it was fine. I just didn't talk to the right women, the women that were sick.

Chung: Six years ago Judy Taylor received silicone implants after a double mastectomy. You thought everything was going to be just fine.

Taylor: And it was.

Chung: For how long?

Taylor: Approximately one year, and then I started getting sick.

Chung: What were your symptoms?

Taylor: It was flu-line symptoms: swollen glands, fevers, chills, sweats, sore throats, and many, many trips to the doctor. And I got more tired and more tired, and joint pain. And it was very difficult to go up and down a stair.

Chung: How long did this go on?

Taylor: This went on for almost five years.

Chung: Five years!

Taylor: Yes.

Chung: Doctors insisted she had a virus, until finally one physician told Judy her system was being poisoned. When the doctor told you what he thought was wrong with you, how did he explain it?

Taylor: He told me that I had silicone-associated disease, or human agevant (sic) disease.

Chung: What did that mean to you?

Taylor: Absolutely nothing. You know, and

Chung: It meant her implants would have to be removed, and when they were, what the doctor found surprised him. The implants were intact, but as this photo shows, silicone had leaked into the surrounding scar tissue of her breasts, and had travelled to her lymph glands.

Shanklin: Silicone gets right into the heart of the immune response system, and is processed in a way that causes the formation of abnormal antibodies.

Chung: And these antibodies, says Dr. Shanklin, not only attack the silicone, but can turn on the human system as well, causing the body to go haywire. Shanklin is a pathologist at the University of Tennessee in Memphis, where he has spent six years studying tissue from women with implants. He's found evidence of silicone in almost every part of the body.

Shanklin: I found it in the thyroid gland here in the neck. I found it in the spleen, which in most people is in the abdomen on the upper left side. I've seen it in the liver. I've seen it in the other lymph nodes in the body. I have not found it so far, in one case, where I looked at the ovaries.

Janice Buck (Breast Implant Recipient): They do say, Mom, Ill take care of you. Dont worry about anything, you know.

Chung: Janice Buck is convinced that silicone is also at the root of her health problems. Eleven years ago, tumours in her breasts forced her to have mastectomies, breast implants. Today, she can barely walk. She's plagued with illness.

Buck: I suffer constant pain constant pain and constant fatigue. I take a total of between four and five hundred dollars of medication a month to try to keep me going.

Chung: When the doctor told you that maybe it might be the breast implants, and that you ought to have them removed, what did you think?

Buck: I would've done anything if I thought it would help me get better, but it was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do, because it was so hard losing my breasts once, let alone having to lose them twice.

Chung: Sybil Goldridge gave up on implants after five operations left her breasts mangled and infected. She allowed us to use this photo as a graphic example of her ordeal. Today, she's demanding that doctors warn women of all the dangers they may face.

Goldridge: If every doctor would simply read the package insert to the patient, the woman would then have enough information to make her decision. Simply read the list of complications to the patient, and let her decide whether she wants to risk these complications. The complications they list are known. Just tell her what's there. She's not getting that information. Nobody's getting that information.

Chung: This is a typical insert that manufacturers include with their implants. It says that its the surgeon's responsibility to tell the patient about any possible risks or complication. They include implant rupture, or tearing from excessive stress such as massage or vigorous exercise, silicone bleeding or leaking, and a warning that implants may cause severe joint pain, swollen glands, and hair loss. None of the women in this story had access to this information. That's because manufacturers didn't start disclosing it until five years ago. We spoke with more than forty doctors around the country, and were surprised to learn that less than a third mentioned these complications to their patients.

Karen Valleya (Breast Implant Recipient): Had I known that these things could rupture, I would never have had this done, because I would've been afraid of leaking silicone.

Chung: Initially, where you had the implants, how long did you think they were going to last?

Valleya: A lifetime.

Chung: Karen Valleya is a nurse and mother of two. Before deciding on implants for cosmetic reasons, she had asked about the dangers. She thought she knew everything that could possibly go wrong.

Valleya: I was quite happy with the way I looked. I was really pleased with the surgery. I think I even wrote the surgeon a letter telling him this, you know, how much that it did for my self-esteem.

Chung: When did you start noticing some problems?

Valleya: Six months after breast augments I started to experience extreme fatigue, fatigue to the point where I couldn't care for my children, mouth ulcers, just eroded my mouth completely, fevers, pneumonia, chest pain, hair loss, bizarre skin rashes, and all of those things. And I just knew something was wrong.

Chung: Karen would later be diagnosed with a disease of the immune system called lupus, but there were other symptoms that no one could explain.

Valleya: I had leakage of a clear fluid from my right breast, and a lump there.

Chung: Leakage?

Valleya: Leakage from a nipple. I was absolutely shocked to find out that it was silicone that had been leaking out of me for two-and-a-half years.

Chung: And surgery confirmed what she had feared: the right implant had ruptured. Karen had them both removed.
Karen, what are you left with now?

Valleya: Im left with, you know, just about no breast tissue. I wear a prosthesis, just like someone with a mastectomy.

Chung: But silicone isn't the only danger women face. Since the early 1980s more and more women have been turning to this: its called Meme. Its a silicone implant covered with soft polyurethane foam. Although doctors had their concerns about this foam decades earlier, in recent years the makers of the Meme have called it the new answer to keeping the breast tissue from turning hard. The Meme was the implant of choice for Janice Cruz. She couldn't imagine what her doctor would find when he removed them seven years later.

Janice Cruz (Breast Implant Recipient): The polyurethane cover was completely dissolved. What was supposed to be a two-and-a-half hour surgery to remove implants turned into seven hours of dipping, what he referred to as a green, slimy-looking gelatine from my chest wall and everywhere he could reach.

Chung: In his laboratory in Canada, Dr. Pierre Blais has spent ten years researching what happens to polyurethane once its in a womans breast.

Dr. Pierre Blais (Researcher): After about a month, it looks like this, the foam has gone in part, and it is beginning to peel away from the surface. After about six months to a year, half of the foam has gone away, dissolved. They produce debris, which is potentially toxic.

Chung: The foam is made here at a factory outside of Philadelphia. Its an industrial polyurethane like that found in air conditioning and carburator filters. When it breaks down, it can produce a chemical, tolulene-diamine, or TDA, a known animal carcinogen already banned in hair dyes. But the makers of the Meme, Surgitex, insist their studies show the foam is safe. We asked Surgitex to talk to us about the Meme, the foam, and its dangers. But officials not only refused to go on camera, they asked us to leave their property.

Goldridge: Nobody has done the kind of studies that are required for this kind of product. Just as I say that it's my belief that the implants are harmful, the drug companies and the manufacturers don't have any proof that it's not. Why should we be in the catch-22 situation thirty years after the fact. There's got to be somethingsomething wrong there.

Chung: The FDA will not grant us an interview on Meme or any other implant. But in a statement the FDA did say its in the process of collecting data from manufacturers, and that it may take years before any decisions are made about their safety. In the meantime, more than a hundred thousand women each year are still receiving implants.

Valleya: Its very difficult to tell people about whats happened to me, because I find it's somewhat embarrassing. Not that I did anything wrong, but just personal. But I feel that if someone doesn't speak out, and talk about this, I believe that there are probably many women like me, but how may want to tell the world this, you know. Its hard to do.

Chung: There are no statistics on how many women have become ill because of their implants. No agency, no study has kept track of them. While questions continue to be raised abut the safety of breast implants, only the state of Maryland requires doctors to inform their patients of all the known risks and complications. It took five years to get that law passed.

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