Health News

Breast Implants Linked To A Rare Form Of Cancer

Photo from the FDA

A rare form of cancer that was first associated with breast implants in 2011 is now being linked to nine deaths, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA had received 359 reports of the cancer associated with the implants as of February 1, 2017. The deaths were not directly caused by breast cancer, but by anaplastic large-cell lymphoma, a rare malignancy in the immune system, the New York Times reports.

In the cases where the cancer was linked to implants, the cancer grows in the breast, commonly in the scar tissue that forms due to the surgical procedure for implants. The good news is that the cancer is usually treatable and generally not fatal.

However, the FDA says that there is a higher risk for more complications with textured implants compared to smooth implants. Textured implants have a pebbled surface. Of the 359 reported cases, 203 were textured and 28 were smooth.

Symptoms such as lumps, pain, swelling and fluid buildup are responsible for patients coming forward to get diagnosed. The FDA says that it is impossible to determine just how many cases exist, because there is a limited reporting and a lack of sales data on implants in general.

In 2016 alone, close to 290,000 women in the United States received breast enlargement implants. Some 109,000 of them received reconstruction after surviving breast cancer, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports.

In most lymphoma cases, removing the implant and the surrounding tissue addresses the cancer. But in some women, chemotherapy and radiation may be necessary to eliminate all traces of the disease.

Dr. Alex K. Wong, a plastic surgeon and researcher at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, says the body’s reaction to textured and smooth implants is different. Tissue grows into tiny grooves in textured implants. Wong says,

When we take these out, you can hear a peeling sound. Whereas with a smooth implant, it’s like Jell-O. You can spin it around. It moves really easily.

He added that the rare cancer also seems to be linked to certain bacterial infections. “We’re still trying to find out why the surface matters,” Wong said.

Textured implants are used when surgeons want the material to adhere and not move around, which is important for newer, anatomically-correct implants that look distorted when they shift in place.

The FDA warns that women receiving implants should be aware of this problem and the increased risk textured implants carry.

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