PARIS (Reuters) - France will offer surgery to remove the breast implants of up to 30,000 women if a study due out this week finds that the silicone they are made from could cause cancer, the health minister said Tuesday.
Eight cases of cancer have appeared in women with breast implants made by Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), which is accused of using industrial-grade silicone, normally used in everything from computers to cookware. The company is no longer trading.
Health Minister Nora Berra told journalists the ministry would respond to the growing health scare Friday once the National Cancer Institute completed its inquiry.
If a link is established, French social security will pay for all women with the implants to have them removed, but only fund surgery to replace them in cases where women have had reconstructive surgery, for example after a mastectomy, Berra said.
French health officials said no direct link had been established between the implants and the eight cancer cases. However, the newspaper Liberation reported that the institute's head had already decided to recommend that all 30,000 women have them surgically removed.
The paper added that up to 300,000 women worldwide may have received PIP implants.
A French court is also investigating the death in 2010 of one patient that may be linked to an implant.
PIP implants contained a gel that became lumpy and granular, increasing the risk that the pouch would tear and leak gel into the patient's body.
Alexandra Blachere, head of an advocacy group for PIP implant patients, said all victims should be offered replacements.
"Taking out the implants because they are dangerous is well and good, but we cannot leave women in a state of psychological suffering afterwards, so it's necessary to reimplant, whatever the cost," she told journalists.
More than 2,000 complaints by women wearing PIP implants have been lodged since March 2010.
(Reporting By Gerard Bon and Patrick Vignal; writing by Nick Vinocur; Editing by Ben Harding)