The safety of breast implants has been debated for years, and now there is a new cause for concern: There is reason to believe implants could be linked to a rare form of cancer, after nine breast implant recipients died from the disease.
The FDA recently updated its 2011 safety alert concerning both silicone and saline breast implants to include notice of a potential link to lymphoma. As of February 1, 2017, the agency had received more than 350 adverse event reports regarding anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) in women with breast implants. This is a rare form of cancer of the immune system that grows in the breast but is not a form of breast cancer.
FDA Receives Hundreds of Adverse Event Reports Related to Textured Implants
Current data suggests ALCL occurs more frequently with textured-surface breast implants versus those with smooth surfaces. Of the FDA's adverse event reports, only 231 included information on implant surface, 203 of which were textured and 28 of which were smooth. It does not appear to be of consequence as to whether the implants are silicone or saline filled.
The exact rate of incidence is unclear and further research is needed. The agency said it will continue to collect information and encouraged health care providers to monitor implant patients regularly. They did not recommend implant removal, but encouraged women considering implants to carefully consider all of the potential risks.
Dr. Maggie DiNome, associate clinical professor of surgery at UCLA Medical Center and breast cancer surgeon told CBS News she's received numerous calls regarding the risk of cancer for breast implant recipients. She wants women to know it's rare and out of the 10 million women worldwide who have implants, so far there are fewer than 400 cases of cancer.
She also notes it's a very curable form of cancer and that in most cases, the implant would be removed. Her advice is to “Be aware… Just like with breast cancer, if you find a mass in your breast, go get it checked out.” Like the official FDA notice, DiNome doesn't recommend having implants removed as a precaution.
Symptoms of ALCL
Symptoms of ALCL-linked cancer are similar to those of breast cancer. Women diagnosed with ALCL linked to their implants reported lumps, pain, swelling and breast asymmetry. Doctors recommend if one breast appears more swollen than the other, you should have it checked out, though there are many reasons this occurs and it's not necessarily caused by cancer.
There are instances of ALCL that are not linked to breast implants. The cancer typically shows up on a blood test ordered for patients with fatigue, enlarged lymph nodes and various other symptoms.