- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 21, 2011

PARIS (AP) - Emmanuelle Maria’s breasts were burning and globules of silicone gel were protruding into her armpits. Her implants had ruptured. Yet her doctors, she says, told her nothing was wrong.

Now she and a group of leading plastic surgeons want the French government to tell 30,000 women to get their implants removed _ at the state’s expense.

Prompted by the calls, French health authorities are considering an unprecedented move: recommending that all women with the now-banned breast implants undergo surgery to remove them. Investigators say the implants were made with cheap industrial silicone whose medical dangers remain unclear.

Governments around Europe are awaiting France’s decision Friday. Tens of thousands more women in Britain, Italy, Spain and other European nations are walking around with the same implants, made by the now-defunct French company Poly Implant Prothese, or PIP.

The main concern in France is the risk of rupture, as well as uncertainty over what risks the suspected industrial silicone gel could pose when it leaks inside the body. Of the more than 30,000 women who have the implants, more than 1,000 have suffered ruptures, according to the French health safety agency AFSSAPS.

Eight cases of cancer among women with the implants, including one who died in November, have heightened pressure on the government to act, and Friday’s decision will depend partly on guidance from the French National Cancer Institute.

The implants in question were not sold in the United States, where concerns about silicone gel implants overall led to a 14-year ban on their use. Silicone implants were brought back on the market in 2006 after research ruled out cancer, lupus and some other concerns.

All implants _ not just this brand _ have a risk of rupture. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends regular MRI checks for ruptures and French health officials also recommend regular screening.

PIP implants were taken off the market last year after French authorities discovered the company misreported the type of silicone used.

British health officials say they see no reason so far to have the French-made implants systematically removed, and have said there is not enough evidence of a link between silicone implants and cancer. Italy’s Health Ministry is holding a meeting Thursday to discuss the French-made implants.

Dr. Maurice Mimoun, a leading plastic surgeon at Paris’ Saint Louis Hospital, said a rupture could cause silicone gel to leak to other parts of the body.

“The problem is that these implants are made with a gel that we don’t know,” he said in an interview. “Once these implants are removed, the story is not over. … We don’t know” if there might be other consequences, he said.

Mimoun has recommended that the government push for implant removals, but said the operations needn’t be carried out in haste.

Women have filed more than 2,000 legal complaints since the implants were recalled last year, and an investigation into officials at PIP is under way. Investigators say the company used cheaper industrial silicone instead of silicone meant for medical use in the implants, cutting costs by up to $1.3 million (euro1 million) a year.

The company has suspended its activities and is being liquidated. Its phones are no longer functioning and emails sent to its staff were not answered.

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