The Associated Press

Doctors Launch Task Force Into Breast Implant Illness

Doctors begin study to evaluate long-term effects of breast implants

There's a new push to find out why thousands of women in the United States claim their breast implants are making them sick.

They said they suffer from what's been labeled "breast implant illness," but doctors have long said the condition doesn't clinically exist.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, breast augmentation is the number one cosmetic plastic surgery in the United States and 300,000 women got breast implants in 2017 alone.

However, there is a small minority of women who want their implants out.

Krista Cheatham, of McKinney, said her implants were making her sick.

The mother of two received breast implants in 2006 and she said within months of the procedure, she noticed small changes in her health.

"They weren't big symptoms. It was more like fatigue and tired," said Cheatham.

Over the next few years, she said her symptoms worsened to include depression, constant brain fog, food sensitivities, migraines, joint pain and heart palpitations.

"I've been to all these doctors and everyone said that you're fine! Blood work, CT scans, everything said I'm fine, but in my body, I was like, I'm not OK!"

In 2017, she said, she hit rock bottom.

"I remember coming home and just being like, 'I can't keep doing this. This is too hard. I feel too bad. I'm too young. I have two kids to raise. I need to find answers and if I can't physically find them with doctors, I'm going to have to find them myself," she said.

She turned to the internet, not sure what she would find and her search lead her to multiple websites and support groups with thousands of stories from women who believe their implants were the root cause of similar health issues.

Popular Facebook groups dedicated to the cause include Breast Implant Illness and Healing By Nicole, which has 61,000 members.

Breast Implant Victim Advocacy is also a popular page. 

Medical device safety surveillance tool, Device Events, tells NBC 5 it used the FDA's Manufacturer and User Facility Device Experience database, MAUDE, to compile the statistics published in this report, detailing how more than 10,000 injury complaints about breast implants were filed with the FDA in 2017 and 2018.

Still, as of right now, researchers said there is no research linking symptoms associated with breast implant illness to breast implants.

"For everyone woman that thinks she may have breast implant illness, there are a thousand women that are happy and not having any problem, so it's still a very small minority and that makes it tough to study things that are rare," said Dr. Willam Adams, a plastic surgeon in Dallas and an Associate Clinical Professor of Plastic Surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Adams is on the newly-formed breast implant illness task force, within The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

The task force will conduct research and launch a database that will follow new breast implant patients for more than 10 years.

"It is something of interest to us, as the doctors of these patients and being an advocate of our patients," said Adams.

Cheatham decided to have surgeons remove her implants in 2018 and she said she immediately felt better.

"I have photos of when I went into surgery and how puffy I was. I looked almost toxic. Twenty-four hours, 48 hours after, it was like, the puffiness was just leaving my body."

Since the surgery, she said every symptom she experienced is gone.

"I don't miss them at all. I am so happy they're gone because I have my life back and that is more important than what I looked like," Cheatham said.

In 2011, the FDA identified a possible assocation between breast implants and the development of anaplastic large cell lymphoma.

The FDA will host a public meeting to discuss breast implant safety in March.

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