In 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established an association between breast implants and a specific type of cancer — anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). Since then, more cases have been identified. The total recently rose to 414 cases around the world, based on voluntary reporting.
Called breast implant-associated ALCL, the disease is not considered breast cancer, but rather a lymphoma-type cancer; when detected early, it can be cured typically by surgery alone.
ALCL mainly affects the lymph nodes and typically responds well to treatment. This specific type of lymphoma cancer may be caused by implants with a textured coating because it may irritate surrounding tissue, but the FDA is not just looking at this type of implant as the root cause.
“Even though breast implant-associated ALCL is extremely rare, breast implant expert surgeons need to be alert for signs and symptoms associated with the diagnosis,” says Dr. Hector Salazar Reyes, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.
The main symptom is painful and severe swelling near or around the implant; however, sometimes there is swelling in the breast or armpit as well. Treatment could include chemotherapy and radiation, as well as removal of the implants and surrounding capsule containing the lymphoma.
However, for some patients, the news of a cancer diagnosis may not be a new experience, as some women receive implants after a mastectomy for breast cancer.
“With patients who may have received implants after a mastectomy, the FDA does not recommend changes to their routine medical care and follow-up, nor does it recommend the removal of a patient’s implants,” explains Dr. Salazar Reyes. “That being said, this disease is an unfortunate reality for some, which is why our community needs to be educated about this prior to having implants placed. For patients who are looking for breast augmentation, I recommend only going to American board-certified plastic surgeons.”
Currently, the FDA says there is a 1 in 3,817 chance that women will develop this type of cancer caused by implants. If you begin to develop swelling or pain around the implant, contact your primary care doctor.
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Hector Salazar Reyes about breast implant-related cancer for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.