Breast Implants Linked to Cancer – What You Need to Know
By: Courtney Floyd
What's the link between breast implants and cancer?
In 2011, the FDA announced a possible association between breast implants and the development of breast implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). This is a cancer of the immune system that develops in the scar capsule around the implant, not a true breast cancer.
The FDA now believes patients with textured breast implants have a very low risk of developing BIA-ALCL. In fact, the lifetime risk of developing this cancer from an implant is believed to be between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 30,000. More aggressively textured implants appear to be associated with a higher risk than less aggressively textured implants.
So, what should you do if you are a patient with textured implants or are considering getting implants?
- Educate yourself. There are many different types of implants that are FDA approved in the United States. They range in shape, filling and texture.
- Discuss your concerns with a board-certified plastic surgeon.
- Know the signs and symptoms of BIA-ALCL. If you notice swelling more than a year , lumps or pain around the implant, inform your surgeon.
- Continue with your routine mammograms.
"As a high volume breast reconstruction center, we see lots of patients with implants. We want our patient to know we are very conscientious when evaluating complications related to implants," shares Dr. Ramon Garza.
"I’ve never personally seen a case although I have seen patients with long-standing implants that have had severe capsule contracture and a fluid collection," adds Dr Chet Nastala. "If we see a patient like that, we send them for ultrasound guided aspiration of the fluid which is sent for cytology and CD 30 immunohistochemistry. This is the screening test for BIA-ALCL. A fluid collection (or 'seroma'), around a breast implant can happen without BIA-ALCL. Once BIA-ALCL has been ruled out, the plastic surgeon can treat the seroma as they usually would."
"Any possible link between breast implants and cancer is very scary. But, it’s important to remember this risk is extremely low" adds Dr Chrysopoulo. "In the rare event of a BIA-ALCL diagnosis, the patient should complete their lymphoma treatment (including implant removal and full capsulectomy) before having any further reconstructive surgery."
For patients who are unhappy with their implants or who have experience failed implant reconstruction, removing the implants and replacing them with their own tissue via autologous reconstruction (such as the DIEP flap) is an option.