|Written by NHS Choices|
|Monday, 18 June 2012 12:00|
Women concerned about PIP breast implants can find all the latest NHS information about the issue in our Health A-Z section on PIP implants.
Worries about the implants have emerged since news of a major investigation into them in France was widely covered in the media in December 2011.
Initially it was thought that around 40,000 women in the UK had the implants but on March 15 the Department of Health said new evidence meant a further 7,000 women in the UK might have them. About 95% of the implants were provided privately for purely cosmetic reasons.
The French implants caused global concern after it was revealed they contained industrial silicone rather than medical-grade fillers and that they may be more prone to rupture and leakage than other implants.
Initially reports also linked the implants to a rare form of cancer known as ALCL. This cancer link has been now been firmly discounted by medical experts here and in Europe.
What type of implants are involved?
The implants involved are called Poly Implant ProsthÃ¨se (PIP) and were made by a French company of the same name.
In a Medical Device Alert in March 2010, the Medical and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said: " ... most breast implants manufactured by the company since 2001 have been filled with a silicone gel with a composition different from that approved".
That alert was based on advice from French regulators. However, after an investigation by the MHRA, the French authorities reported in March 2012 that PIP implants made before 2001 may also contain unauthorised silicone gel.
PIP gained approval to market its silicone implants in 1997 but it is not clear when it began using a cheap type of silicone gel intended for making mattresses.
The marketing, distribution and use of the PIP implants was suspended in March 2010.
Do the implants have to be removed early?
About one breast implant in five needs replacing within 10 years, whatever the make, so it is unlikely that all the 7,000 women who had PIP implants before 2001 still have the same implants.
An expert committee was set up recently to examine the specific risks associated with PIP implants. It concluded that there was not enough evidence to recommend their early removal. That advice has not changed. For more details, read the expert review group's final report (PDF, 163kb).
Symptoms to watch for
If you have any of the following signs or symptoms, you should discuss them with your GP, who will refer you to a specialist:
The Chief Medical Officer for England has issued GPs and surgeons with specialised guidance on how to check and care for women with PIP implants (PDF, 119kb).