PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — While most women with implants have nothing to worry about, the FDA is having a public meeting of medical advisers to review the safety of breast implants early in the new year. The issue being discussed is called Breast Implant Syndrome or Breast Implant Illness.
The ailment is making some women desperate for answers.
“I was getting sicker and sicker and I didn’t know why,” explains Karen Monetti, who turned to yoga for help with her symptoms.
For the past 10 years, her life was torture.
“I used to be perfectly healthy,” said Monetti.
Monetti is a professional figure competitor, a winner in natural bodybuilding, where no supplements are allowed.
For her, getting the perfect figure included having breast implants.
“It’s part of symmetry, part of your shape and I just wanted to feel more like a female,” said Monetti.
But she’s now convinced the implants caused a series of health problems.
“Digestive issues, adrenal issues, hormone issues, pigmentation issues, hair loss, depression, weight gain, inflammation,” Monetti explains as the serious problems affecting her health.
Internet research led her to Facebook groups where tens of thousands of women with implants were complaining of similar problems.
“When I found these facebook groups I felt like I was reading my story just from a different voice,” Monetti recalls.
Over the years there have been a variety of concerns about the safety of silicone and saline breast implants. But their popularity is growing — over 300,000 women got them last year and the number of women with breast implant illnesses has also increased.
“It affects nearly every organ system in their body,” explains Dr. Brian Buinewicz.
The plastic surgeon from Bucks County says he’s doing a growing number of surgeries to remove breast implants.
However, the FDA says there’s not enough evidence to show a connection. Buinewicz believes otherwise, since he has had 200 patients in the last two years looking for a better alternative.
“There’s a certain subset of women that are prone to inflammatory issues. These implants are causing chronic inflammation that’s now kicking off systematic inflammation in their body,” Buinewicz says.
Monetti is one of the patients who turned to Buinewicz to have her implants removed.
“Almost every symptom I’ve had is gone, completely gone,” Monetti said.
Now, she’s back in the gym, thinking about competing again and her strength is back.
The FDA does say breast implants are not lifetime devices and that the longer a woman has them, the more likely there are to be complications.
While the science so far doesn’t link them to connective tissue disease, the agency says there could be an increased risk for large cell lymphoma.