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Women blame years of illness on breast implants

SEATTLE — Alana Davis started feeling sick within eight months of having breast implant surgery in 2008.

“I started to go downhill really fast,” the Lake Stevens mother told KIRO 7 on Tuesday.

The 42-year old suffered from neurological problems and vertigo and couldn’t remember words or think clearly, so she told her physician about her symptoms.

Davis said a doctor she had trusted for years told her, about her implants, “No way. They’re inert and they’re completely safe. It’s definitely not that. You’re probably stressed.”

Amanda Porta, formerly of Seattle and now living in Los Angeles, said her doctors told her the same thing when she complained of all-around malaise eight years after receiving a single breast implant.  “They would always blame it on depression,” Porta said.

“I would get up to 40 pounds of inflammation on my small frame and I would say to the doctor ‘What’s going on? This is so scar,’ and he would say, ‘Oh, you just turned 40. You’re gaining a couple of pounds,'” Porta said.

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Thousands of implant recipients have reported similar symptoms – known as Breast Implant Illness -- online, and more than 450 cases of cancer have been diagnosed in women with breast implants, which is why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is meeting in Washington, D.C., this week to explore the possible link between breast implants and illness.

After Davis suffered for nine years, she flew to Dallas in August of 2016 to have her implants removed.

Immediately after surgery, Davis said all of her symptoms disappeared.

She was also given her implants to examine. “They were paper-thin and they had about half as much fluid in them, so they had severely degraded inside my body,” Davis said.

Porta also felt better once her implant was removed, just four weeks ago. “I noticed I could sleep, so for the first time in seven years, I got real sleep. I woke up refreshed,” she told KIRO 7.

Porta’s board-certified plastic and general surgeon, Dr. Kevin Brenner, spoke with KIRO 7 via satellite from Los Angeles on Tuesday. He said he’s noticed an uptick in the number of women having their breast implants removed.

“Oftentimes, when I remove the implants after surgery, invariably the patients feel better with almost complete resolution of their symptoms,” Dr. Brenner said, while acknowledging the illnesses are occurring “in a very small percentage of people.”

Brenner also said Breast Implant Illness, or BII, is still an unofficial diagnosis.

According to the FDA, however, there have been 457 cases of diagnosed anaplastic large-cell lymphoma, or ALCL, in women with implants.

"CBS This Morning" reported on Tuesday that most women who contract ALCL have what are called "textured breast implants."

Brenner said he has seen women with multiple different types of implants getting sick.

“The connection between breast implants and illnesses is not really well described, and that’s the main reason I believe the FDA is holding these hearings right now” Brenner said.

Davis and Porta are relieved the FDA is finally paying attention to their claims -- and the thousands of similar claims posted online.

“It’s exciting,” Porta said. “This is a big week, and the women who have gone to Washington to speak to the FDA are doing a magnificent job and I can tell they (the FDA) are listening.”

Davis said that, if she had known in 2008 what she knows now, she “absolutely” would not have had breast implant surgery but, she said, “At the same time, I appreciate life so much more now because I really thought I was going to die.”

Porta is glad her implant is out of her body but wouldn’t change the past.  “As horrible as it’s been, if I can help others get through this, then it’s totally worth it,” she said.

Both women advise anyone who has implants – or who is considering getting them – to know the symptoms of possible Breast Implant Illness (BII).

Click here and/or here for more information on Facebook support groups for women with Breast Implant Illness.

Click here and/or here for more information on breast implants from the FDA.