Textured breast implants have been the center of much debate and study lately, as they’ve been found to a type of non-Hodgkins lymphoma known as breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). In recent months, this type of cancer has been found to be more prevalent than previously thought.
At the time of the last report from the Food and Drug Administration, 414 cases of the cancer had been reported in the United States alone, and more than 600 cases had been found worldwide. However, a new report announces that there are at least 457 cases of BIA-ALCL in the U.S. alone.
16 women have already died from the disease, nine of whom were from the U.S. The string of cancer cases has led to several investigations of the devices’ safety, and in some parts of the world, textured implants are no longer being used.
In December, France’s National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM) revoked the safety approval for textured implants made by Allergan, which made up 85 percent of the French breast implant market. Allergan was asked to discontinue sales of textured implants in Europe and many other parts of the world. In the U.S., however, these devices are still legal.
Luckily, this type of cancer is highly treatable and curable in most cases. For the majority of the women who have textured implants and develop cancer, removing the implants and the surrounding pocket of cancer and scar tissue will cause the problem to clear up on its own. However, if not caught in time, BIA-ALCL can still be deadly.
However, because BIA-ALCL is a very uncommon form of cancer, most experts are not suggesting that all women with textured implants have these devices removed or replaced. It is merely something to be aware of and another reason to get regular screening for cancer.
“We hope that this information prompts providers and patients to have important, informed conversations about breast implants and the risk of BIA-ALCL,” said Dr. Binita Ashar of the FDA.
The FDA initially alerted the public to the risk of BIA-ALCL in 2011, but this is the first time it will be sending out letters to primary care physicians and gynecologists to encourage them to educate themselves about BIA-ALCL so they know which patients are at risk and can properly diagnose and treat any issues that may arise.
The FDA will be meeting next month to discuss the safety of textured implants. In the meantime, BIA-ALCL victims and advocates applaud the administration’s efforts to spread the word.
“Letters to these health care providers, like OBGYNs and ER Doctors are critical to the diagnosis of this disease. They are some of the first physicians to treat patients symptomatic for BIA-ALCL and these patients are often missed and mistreated for mastitis, shingles, and other conditions,” said Michelle Forney, a California mother of two who was diagnosed with ALCL last year. “This disease is not rare. It’s emerging and should not belong in the hands of plastic surgeons.”
If you have textured breast implants and are concerned about your risk, talk to your doctor about BIA-ALCL symptoms and your options.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?