For the most part, breast implants are extremely safe, and that’s a good thing considering breast augmentation is the number one cosmetic surgery in the United States. Still, a small but prominent amount of women do develop cancer directly correlated to their breast implants. Here is what you need to know about this rare cancer, and how you can avoid it.
Cancer, known as breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma, has affected more than 10 million women worldwide who have received breast implants, The New York Times reported.
The cancer is nearly always linked to a specific type of breast implant—those with a textured or slightly rougher surface, as opposed to a smooth covering, as this is more likely to lead to inflammation that can prompt cancer. However, what is inside of the implant, as well as the reason for the surgery, seems to make little to no difference of disease risk.
Most of the cancers develop from two to 28 years after implant surgery, with an average time passing of eight years.
Symptoms of cancer usually include painful swelling and fluid buildup around the implant. There may also be lumps in the breast or armpit.
Treatment And Risk Factors
The Federal Food and Drug Administration first linked breast implants to this cancer in 2011, and although highly treatable if detected early, cancer has still claimed the lives of at least 9 women, The New York Times reported. In addition, the FDA had received 359 reports of implant-associated lymphoma from around the world, but this number is expected to rise as more doctors recognize the connection between the implants and this cancer. As of now, experts believe that the lack of knowledge surrounding cancer’s cause may lead to worse outcomes.
“In the cases where we have seen bad outcomes, it was usually because they were not treated or there was a major delay in treatment, on the level of years,” Dr. Mark W. Clemens II, a plastic surgeon and an expert on the disease at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, told The New York Times.
According to the FDA, for the most part, the majority of breast implants in the US are smooth in texture, some such as teardrop-shaped implants may have a rougher texture as to keep the implant from moving too much inside the breast. Still, even with a textured breast implant, the risk is still low with the Times reporting that one in 30,000 women in the US with textured implants will develop the disease.
The FDA recommends that most cases of breast implant-associated ALCL are treated with removal of the implant and the capsule surrounding the implant. However, they note that in some cases, if cancer has spread further, women may need to be treated by chemotherapy and radiation.