Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Breast Implant Information Society (B 14)


  Founded in January 1998, the Breast Implant Information Society (BIIS) is a non-profit making organisation funded solely by membership fees. The BIIS forms the UK's first central, independent source of information on breast implants and related surgery, set up for the benefit of all women. BIIS aims and objectives are as follows:

  1.1  To ensure every woman considering breast implant surgery has the opportunity to receive sufficient pre-operative advice and information, thus ensuring she gives her informed consent before undergoing surgery.

  1.2  To ensure every woman who already owns implants has the opportunity to receive guidelines on the long-term care and monitoring of her implanted breasts.

  1.3  To create a collective of all implanted women in the UK in order to obtain realistic feedback and figures for the benefit of all implanted women and future research.

  1.4  To actively seek out and help those implanted women whose "quality of life" is being affected by negative media coverage, and/or lack of knowledge on breast implants.

  1.5    To continually research every aspect of breast implant surgery and to pass this information on to Members in a concise and easy-to-understand way via "B-PLUS" (the BIIS official newsletter) and BIIS "Hot News".

  1.6  To provide advice and support on a one-to-one basis in the form of a personal BIIS Voluntary Sponsor or via the BIIS Telephone Helpline.

  1.7  To ensure that the partners and/or family members of these women receive sufficient information and advice regarding their own important role both before and after surgery.

  The BIIS does not offer medical advice, although all medical terminology is translated into "plain English". This ensures a more meaningful consultation with any surgeon or other healthcare professional.

  The BIIS will not make any recommendations regarding any particular surgeon, clinic or hospital, nor the choice of breast implant to be used. Every patient is different, possessing her own unique requirements and medical history.


  The BIIS attempts to perform ongoing research by sending out a detailed, confidential questionnaire to implanted women. Some of the more significant statistics taken from completed questionnaires are as follows:

  2.1  58 per cent of women undergoing breast augmentation surgery visited their GP in the first instance—only 15 per cent received any verbal or written information and a shocking 66 per cent said that their GP did not make any attempt to find out whether they wanted the surgery for the right reasons. Only 25 per cent of GP's looked at or examined their existing natural breasts and only 14 per cent of women received advice on the importance of regular monthly breast self-examination from their GP.

  2.2  14 per cent of women attempted to get their breast augmentation done through the NHS but were unsuccessful, and only 3 per cent of these were referred to a psychologist.

  2.3  26 per cent of women found their surgeon by using the services on a private clinic or agent. 49 per cent of these women were not provided with any literature on breast enlargement surgery. Of the 51 per cent who were provided with literature, 71 per cent found the literature inadequate.

  2.4  11 per cent of women fell into the trap of booking a date for surgery without having previously met the surgeon for a full consultation. These women did not meet their surgeon until the day of the surgery. 26 per cent of women were not warned that their breasts could be very swollen and hard for the first few weeks of recovery. Similarly, 53 per cent were not warned that it could take several months for the implants to drop into their natural position.

  2.5  One of the things that shocked me during my own recovery was the post-operative depression that I experienced. 49 per cent of breast augmentation patients suffer from this condition yet 96 per cent of the women surveyed said they were not warned that this was a possibility. 18 per cent were not advised to avoid smoking or alcohol before surgery.

  2.6  72 per cent of women had the opportunity to see a sample breast implant before surgery, but only 35 per cent got a chance to look at the surgeon's portfolio of "before" and "after" pictures.

  2.7  Only 20 per cent of women felt very well informed before surgery; 41 per cent felt reasonably well informed; 23 per cent felt they only knew the basics before agreeing to go ahead with surgery; 34 per cent felt they should have learned more before going ahead. 11 per cent admitted to not wanting to know the facts in case they talked themselves out of having surgery!

  2.8  41 per cent of women were asked to sign a document detailing all the aspects that had been discussed during pre-operative consultations, but only 10 per cent received a copy of this document. Only 41 per cent of women knew the name of the manufacturer of their respective implants, and only 23 per cent knew the identification/serial number of their implants.

  2.9  Only 26 per cent of women were given the Patient Information Literature that accompanied their implants, but 48 per cent of these women did not see the literature until after their surgery.

  2.10  61 per cent of women were able to reach their surgeon easily to discuss any worries or concerns after surgery, although 42 per cent felt deserted or forgotten by their surgeon or clinic.

  2.11  22 per cent were "more than satisfied" with the results of their surgery; 21 per cent were "very satisfied"; 27 per cent were "quite satisfied" but 13 per cent were "disappointed" with the results, seven per cent were "very unhappy" and eight per cent were "so unhappy" that they were taking, or considering, legal action.

  2.12   When asked for the reasons why they had had surgery, women responded as follows:

    72 per cent—to have a proportionate figure;

    12 per cent—to have a large bust;

    80 per cent—to feel feminine;

    14 per cent—to attract attention from men;

      1 per cent—to make partner jealous;

      6 per cent—to stop partner noticing other women;

    27 per cent—to regain bust size and shape after pregnancy;

    68 per cent—to feel normal;

    87 per cent—to feel more confident;

  2.13  49 per cent of women surveyed had experienced problems:

      3 per cent—haematoma;

      5 per cent—infection;

      6 per cent—seroma;

    25 per cent—capsular contracture;

      3 per cent—calcifications;

      8 per cent—implant rupture;

    13 per cent—asymmetry;

      5 per cent—implant displacement;

    18 per cent—visible rippling;

    20 per cent—visible "ridge" or "gap".

  2.14  16 per cent of the women who surveyed had their implants removed and replaced, 2 per cent had them removed without replacement.


  Following its own independent research and analysis, the BIIS would like to make the following conclusions and recommendations (not listed in any particular order of importance):

  3.1  A lack of knowledge in the primary care sector—GP's and other healthcare professionals need more comprehensive information/literature to better assist/advise patients.

  3.2  A general lack of pre-operative information/literature provided by the cosmetic surgery industry. A standard pre-operative "consent form" would assist both patients and surgeons alike. This form would incorporate a list of all the subjects discussed before committing to surgery and would be signed by both the patient and the surgeon.

  3.3  A lack of control regarding the activities/business protocols amongst the many private clinics/agents. Some companies offer a superb pre and post-operative service whereas others have business procedures which are far from ideal and which take advantage of the potential breast implant patient. The BIIS recommends that some of these companies are investigated and exposed.

  3.4  Many surgeons/companies within the cosmetic surgery industry are not willing to inform their patients about the BIIS or its related products and services. This is because we tell it like it is-warts and all. In addition to its Membership Scheme and Questionnaire Database, the BIIS publishes its own 100,000 word practical guide to cosmetic breast enlargement surgery. This publication, entitled "The Ultimate Cleavage", provides down-to-earth, practical advice on every aspect of breast augmentation and has been nicknamed the "boob job bible" by many readers. The BIIS would like some assistance in overcoming these barriers to ensure that all women get the opportunity to learn of our existence.

March 2001

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