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Groups Remove Info Downplaying Risk of Cancer from Breast Implants

Two organizations representing plastic surgeons have removed information from their websites that some critics say was telling their members to downplay the risk of that cancer may be caused by breast implants

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) have removed a web-based seminar from their websites that instructed surgeons not to use the words “tumor” or “cancer” when referring to growing cancer concerns regarding breast implants. The organizations took down the webinar after the FDA contacted the groups at the urging of the consumer watchdog group, Public Citizen.

The webinar was held shortly after the FDA issued a medical device safety communication warning that there is a possible link between breast implants and anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL); which is a form of cancer. The FDA has indicated that it is aware of as many as 60 cases worldwide of ALCL that developed in the breasts of women who received either silicone or saline breast implants.

A concerned plastic surgeon sent Public Citizen a transcript of the webinar, during which ASPS President Dr. Phil Haeck said plastic surgeons were justified in “downplaying” the malignant potential of ALCL tumors. The webinar also instructed plastic surgeons to tell patients that cancer surgery was curative, which Public Citizen says is inaccurate. Public Citizen expressed concerns and called on the FDA to take action in a letter last month.

On February 28, The FDA replied with a letter to Public Citizen (pdf) informing them that they had spoken with the organizations about the issue but had no real jurisdiction over them.

“While ASPS and ASAPS are independent organizations that the FDA does not regulate, we are committed to assuring that health care providers and patients receive accurate information,” the FDA said in its letter. “We did view the ASPS/ASAPS webinar and spoke with representatives of both organizations. They informed us of their plans to remove the webinar from their website.”

Officials from the organizations said it was never their intention to downplay the risks of the possible breast cancer links.

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