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France ponders breast implant removals

PARIS -- 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 of women in Britain, Italy, Spain and other European nations are walking around with the same implants, made by the French company Poly Implant Prothèse, or PIP, now defunct.

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 more than 30,000 women who have the implants, more than 1,000 have suffered ruptures, the French health safety agency, AFSSAPS, says.

Eight cases of cancer among those with the implants, including one who died in November, have heightened pressure on the government to act. Tomorrow'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 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 other concerns. The Food and Drug Administration recommends regular MRI checks for ruptures. French officials recommend regular screening.

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