What is the Breast Implant Information Project?

In the spring of 1990, while working as a professional staffer on the Congressional subcommittee that oversees the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Diana Zuckerman received a phone call from a young woman who said her mother, a breast cancer patient, was having terrible problems with her breast implants. “You can’t imagine how terrible it is. Congress should do something to protect patients. Please talk to her.” Intrigued, Dr. Zuckerman called the mother, hearing for the first time that breast implants had never been approved by the FDA, and that there were medical concerns about their safety. Skeptical, she contacted the FDA, which confirmed the lack of FDA approval and had no research data on women with implants.

After gathering all the published research on breast implants, Dr. Zuckerman had nothing but a short pile of studies. Most were case studies or small studies that plastic surgeons had published about the advantages and disadvantages of various types of implants and surgical techniques. Since they were studying their own patients, they tended to be focusing on successes, not failures. No safety studies had ever been published in peer-reviewed medical journals, even though approximately one million women already had breast implants in their bodies.

As word got around about her Congressional investigation, more and more women began contacting Dr. Zuckerman — and their complaints were eerily alike. Many young women described feeling old before their time: exhausted by simple daily tasks, unable to recover from flu-like illnesses, or disabled by aches and pains that left them unable to work or care for their families. Virtually all claimed that their doctors did not take their complaints seriously, telling them that implants were safe, and that no other implant patients had these problems.

As a scientist trained in epidemiology and public health, she knew these illnesses could be coincidental, but that a pattern like this warranted objective, long-term research. She also knew that research was unlikely to be conducted unless the FDA required the manufacturers to do so. In 1990, Dr. Zuckerman initiated a congressional hearing on the safety of silicone breast implants — raising, for the first time, serious questions about the lack of safety data for breast implants.

Rep. Ted Weiss (D-NY) chaired the Congressional hearing and was fully supportive of the investigation. After he died in 1992, Dr. Zuckerman completed a Congressional report on the lack of safety information on breast implants and was interviewed on national TV about the report. She left her Congressional position and went to work in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It was not until 1998, that she was able to start working on the issue of breast implants again — in time to testify before the Institute of Medicine and urge them to recommend a long-term study of the safety of breast implants. In 1999, she founded the National Center for Policy Research for Women & Families (subsequently renamed the National Research Center for Women & Families, and now the National Center for Health Research), which examines and explains scientific and medical research regarding health issues. She has been a nationally-recognized expert on breast implants and other women’s health issues ever since.

The National Center for Health Research developed this website for girls and women considering breast implants, and for those who already have implants and want more information. The Breast Implant Information Project collects, analyses, and summarizes information from peer-reviewed research and from discussions with surgeons, other health professionals, and women with implants.

If you have any questions, please email us at info@breastimplantinfo.org

OR call us TOLL FREE at (844) 295-2212.