There’s a new reason to get regular health checks if you have breast implants, and if you’re thinking about getting them, consider this. The FDA is exploring a link between breast implants and a rare form of cancer called anaplastic large-cell lymphoma, or ALCL. Although they haven’t established a firm link as of yet, there are concerns that having breast implants may increase the risk.
What is Anaplastic Large-Cell Lymphoma?
Anaplastic large-cell lymphoma is a cancer that attacks the immune cells – it’s not a type of breast cancer. It can affect immune cells anywhere in the body, but it’s extremely uncommon in the breast, which is why the FDA is concerned about finding 34 cases in women who have breast implants.
Breast Implants and Cancer: Are Women with Implants at Risk?
These 34 cases of anaplastic large-cell lymphoma investigators found after implant surgery occurred in women with both silicone and saline implants with the majority occurring in women with silicone implants. These cases were diagnosed after women returned to their doctors with persistent complaints of swelling, lumpiness and pain around the implants.
After cosmetic surgery in women with breast implants, some degree of scarring and contraction usually occurs as a reaction to the implant, which the body sees as foreign. In these cases, the cancer was found within this fibrous scar tissue. It’s possible that the immune reaction to the implant triggers an inflammatory reaction that gets out of control and leads to this rare form of cancer.
Should Women Who Have Breast Implants Have Them Removed?
The FDA advises women not to panic. There’s still not enough evidence to say breast implants increase the risk of this rare cancer, and they don’t advise women to have them taken out. On the other hand, they urge women to be aware of any pain, swelling, lumps or other abnormal signs and symptoms if they have breast implants. Anyone who does should seek prompt medical attention.
On the plus side, this rare cancer is more treatable when it occurs around a breast implant. According to an article published on Medscape.com, the cancer may be treated in some cases by removing the implants and the surrounding scar tissue, although in some cases radiation and chemotherapy may be needed.
Breast Implants and Cancer: The Bottom Line?
Women who have implants should be aware of any changes in their breasts until more is known and should discuss this issue with their doctor.