Breast implants in focus after cancer death

Two women have developed serious illnesses after they received defective French-made silicone breast implants. Last week, a woman died from lymphatic cancer thought to have been contracted from her breast implants.

The implants shown here are not PIP implants.

A 36-year-old woman called Leaticia was diagnosed last month with ruptured breast implants, according to the French daily Aujourd’hui en France.

Her implants burst six months ago and the silicone gel has leaked into her shoulders, breasts and ribs. Leaticia was operated on in Spain where she received breast implants manufactured by Poly Implant Prothèses (PIP).

Another women who received PIP implants has been diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. It is not yet clear what caused the cancer, but doctors advising a group representing the victims of PIP breast implants suspect the silicone gel used in PIP implants.

French implant manufacturer PIP was closed down by health authorities last year after they discovered the company was using non-medical silicone gel in implants which were twice as likely to rupture as other products in the same category. The company CEO is accused of fraud.

While it is feared that the silicone gel used in the PIP implants is linked to cancer, French health watchdog AFFSAPS has not been able to establish a link.

Last week, a woman – the first in France – died of lymphatic cancer in the southern city of Marseille after her PIP breast implants burst.

It is feared 44,000 women are still carrying PIP breast implants, which were sold in France, Spain and the United Kingdom.

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France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.