Breast implants have been linked to 9 deaths and over 350 reports of a cancer called Anaplastic Large-Cell Lymphoma (ALCL). It is a rare but aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
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Do Breast Implants Cause Cancer?
Breast implants are associated with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a blood cancer of the immune system. The risk is highest for women who have silicone breast implants with a textured surface.
Smooth vs. Textured Breast Implants
Breast implants consist of an outer shell made of silicone rubber that is filled with saline (salt-water) or silicone gel. Smooth breast implants have an outer shell that is shiny and slippery. Textured breast implants have an outer silicone rubber shell with a surface like soft sandpaper.
FDA Safety Warning: Textured Breast Implants and Cancer
The FDA confirmed 359 reports of breast implants causing Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL). Nine of those women have died as of February 1, 2017.
ALCL seems to be more common in women with textured breast implants. There were 231 reports with information on the implant surface. Of these, 203 were textured implants and 28 were smooth.
The FDA called the risk “very low,” but warned that symptoms may include pain, lumps, swelling, or asymmetry of the breast. These are signs of a seroma or fluid build-up around the implant. Testing this fluid for cancer cells is one way to diagnose ALCL.
According to the FDA:
Most cases of breast implant-associated ALCL are treated by removal of the implant and the capsule surrounding the implant and some cases have been treated by chemotherapy and radiation.”
What is the Problem?
Bacterial contamination is hard to avoid when a surgeon is squeezing a breast implant into the body. This is less of a problem on a smooth-surface implant because the immune system can easily kill bacteria. However, on a textured-surface implant, bacteria can hide from the immune system and create an impenetrable coating called a “biofilm.”
Bacteria on the implant can cause low-level infections or inflammation. The immune system responds to this “foreign invader” by forming scar tissue capsule around the implant. Progressive hardening of scar-tissue (contracture) occurs in 10-50% of women with breast implants. Chronic inflammation also increases the risk of developing lymphoma, a cancer in cells that fight off infections.
Cancer Risks of Silicone vs. Saline Breast Implants
Silicone gel-filled breast implants were banned in the United States from 1992 to 2006. The FDA received only 17 cases of ALCL in women with breast implants between January 1997 and May 2010.
ALCL cases skyrocketed after the FDA approved silicone gel-filled breast implants. From August 2010 to September 2015, the FDA received over 250 reports of ALCL in women with breast implants.
As of February 1, 2017, the FDA confirmed 359 reports of ALCL. Only 312 reports described the type of implant. Of these reports, 186 were silicone gel-filled breast implants and 126 were saline-filled implants.
What is ALCL?
Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL) is a fast-growing cancer of the immune system. It starts in white blood cells called T-lymphocytes (T-cells) that fight infections. These cancerous diseased cells crowd out healthy cells and do not fight infections. ALCL is a rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is also sometimes called “systemic lymphoma” or “anaplastic T-Cell lymphoma.”
What is the Risk?
Approximately 1 in 500,000 women is diagnosed with ALCL in the United States every year. ALCL in the breast is even more rare; approximately 3 in 100 million cases are diagnosed per year. The risk may be significantly higher for women who have breast implants.
Treatment for ALK-Negative ALCL
Breast implants are associated with the ALK-negative subtype of ALCL. This is the most dangerous form of ALCL because it often relapses. With treatment, 45-50% of patients survive long-term. After the breast implant and the scar-tissue capsule are surgically removed, the standard treatment is the “CHOP” chemotherapy regimen: Cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone.
Symptoms of Lymphoma
- Loss of appetite
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Painless swelling in the armpit, neck or groin
- Enlarged lymph nodes
Need a Breast Implant Lawyer in Texas?
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