Breast augmentation is the most popular cosmetic surgery performed in the U.S., but patients of this common procedure have new cause for concern. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration announced this week that women with breast implants may have an increased risk of developing a rare and deadly blood cancer known as anaplastic large cell lymphoma.
The FDA has received 359 reports of breast implant-associated ALCL, and at least nine women have died as a result of this rare cancer. This announcement supports the World Health Organization’s own findings that ALCL can develop as a result of breast implants, according to Law360.
And this isn’t the first time the FDA has published data investigating the connection between breast implants and the rare cancer. The FDA reported on breast implant-associated ALCL as far back as 2011 but did not have enough cases at the time to make a conclusive link between the disease and the implants, according to a report by NPR.
Now, the agency is officially acknowledging the association between implants and ALCL. So, what should women with breast implants know about ALCL and what should they do if they are concerned for their health following this shocking announcement by the FDA?
What’s Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma?
It is important to note that although anaplastic large cell lymphoma has been linked to breast implants, it is not a form of breast cancer. ALCL is a rare and particularly aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).
ALCL causes the white blood cells that fight infection — known as lymphocytes — to become cancerous. Cancerous lymphocytes spread through the body, build up, and cause tumors in the lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, blood, or other organs, according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation.
Initial symptoms of ALCL can include:
- Swelling of lymph nodes
- Loss of appetite
With breast implant-associated ALCL, these symptoms are accompanied by persistent swelling or pain in the breast implant area, often years after the implant placement, according to the FDA.
Textured Implants Carry a Greater Risk
The risk of developing ALCL is 65 times higher for women with breast implants than those without, but the rate of breast implant-associated ALCL is not the same among all types of implants, according to the FDA’s medical device reports.
Of the 231 cases reported to the FDA that contained information on the type of implant, 203 women who developed ALCL received textured implants and 28 received smooth implants, suggesting the cancer is more common in women with textured implants. The material of the implant — silicone or saline — did not appear to impact the incidence rate of ALCL.
Steps Women with Breast Implants Can Take to Stay Healthy
Although breast implant associated ALCL is deadly, it is very rare. The FDA advises women with breast implants to continue with their routine medical exams. Regular mammogram screenings, performed by a technologist trained in performing mammograms on patients with breast implants, are an important part of routine cancer screening.
As silicone breast implants come with the risk of rupturing, women with this type of implant should get regular MRIs as well. The FDA recommends an MRI within three years after implant surgery and every two years afterward to detect potential ruptures.
Most importantly, women with breast implants — particularly those with textured implants — should monitor for any symptoms of ALCL. These include pain, lumps, swelling, asymmetry, and other changes to the implants. Women who note any of these symptoms should visit their healthcare provider immediately.
Are You an ALCL Victim?
If you or someone you love has breast implants and has developed ALCL, our product liability attorneys want to hear from you. You could be entitled to compensation. Fill out our free, no-risk case evaluation form to learn more.