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Pros, Cons Of Breast Implants

The FDA is trying to decide whether to lift an 11-year ban on silicone breast implants, reigniting a long-running debate on the safety of the implants as they hear testimony from all sides.

The Early Show medical correspondent Emily Senay explains that on Wednesday, the FDA advisory panel is expected to vote on whether to recommend that the decision be reversed.

They have been hearing from implant manufacturers who want to lift the ban, and also from those who still believe that the implants are dangerous. If the committee recommends that silicone implants be allowed again, the FDA could lift the ban within months.

Senay says silicone-implants are an alternative to saline-filled implants. Many women say that silicone breast implants feel more natural and are not prone to hardening. But since the ban, silicone implants are only available to the neediest of patients as part of a clinical trial, which means women who want them for cosmetic reasons don't currently have the choice.

The implants were initially banned because of the fears of long-term health risks. The silicone product had the potential to leak into a woman's body when an implant breaks or ruptures inside the body. Many people were frightened that the implants could cause serious long-term problems such as cancer or lupus.

Studies since the ban have been conducted to assess the risks. Senay says there are chances of a rupture and additional surgery after the implant. Local complications and pain are also commonly reported, but in all the research since 1992, there has been no evidence found that the implants cause long-term serious illnesses like cancer or lupus. Manufacturers say that means they should be allowed back on the market.

Many women still blame silicone implants for long-term health problems, and some experts question whether enough research has been done to warrant them to be back on the market.

And the stakes are already high. Lawsuits over the implants forced the manufacturer Dow Corning into bankruptcy when they were banned. Litigation over medical costs caused by the implants is ongoing, and some argue that it's irresponsible to allow sale of implants that are likely to incur medical costs in the future.