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A Closer Look: Breast Implants Possibly Tied to Rare Cancer?

A recent preliminary study has reported that both silicone and saline breast implants may be linked to a very rare type of cancer. The Food and Drug Administration said there was a possible relationship between breast implants and cases of Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma or ALCL—an extremely rare form of cancer that forms in the lymph nodes and skin. This type of cancer is diagnosed in about 1 out of 500,000 women a year, and it is found in breast tissue even less, about 3 out of every 100 million nationwide without breast implants. Yet over the last 13 years, from 1997 to 2010, scientific literature identified 34 cases in women with implants and now the FDA is aware of at least 60 cases. While these are obviously very small numbers, it still brings up concerns. How legitimate is the concern over implants possible connections to ALCL?

When it comes to cancer, any and all precautions tend to be within reason. That being said, this particular study does not mean that breast implants will lead to cancer. In fact, much more research is needed in order to confirm that implants are even a root cause for these rare cases of ALCL. Also, the number of confirmed cases is difficult to verify due to unpublished or duplicate reports. This announcement by the FDA is a warning, shedding light on a potential new risk factor for breast augmentation patients to consider. Patients should always be aware of the all the risks associated with any form of plastic surgery, but the degree of those risks should also be kept in perspective.

In order to better determine how breast implants are linked to ALCL, the FDA is urging health care professionals and women to pay close attention to the condition of their breast implants. Women should be conscious of irregularities including pain, lumps, swelling or asymmetry, and tell their doctor immediately if they are experiencing these changes. All confirmed cases of ALCL in women with implants need to be reported to Medwatch so more tests can be done on the scar tissue and fluid within the breast. There are studies being done to test for a specific chemical indicator that is found only in ALCL cancer cells, and new drugs are being tested to destroy this marker and the cancerous cells.

The bottom line is that ALCL is very rare, only occurring in a fraction of one percent of women with implants. To date, saline and silicone have not scientifically tied to other forms of cancer (despite dozens of government studies), and only further research will determine whether or not there is a genuine increase in risk over a long period of time. Women who have breast implants do not need to change their medical routine or have their implants removed, as surgical intervention is not recommended unless problems have arisen and a doctor suggests it. The best way to stay healthy is to monitor your breasts just as you should without implants, and to be aware of any issues.

If you’re considering having breast augmentation surgery and want to get either saline or silicone breast implants, you need to consult with a certified plastic surgeon to discuss all the risks and benefits. Having a trained surgeon perform the procedure greatly decreases the possibility of serious side effects. Also, a professional can address any concerns you may have about breast implants and cancer risks, and can suggest alternative treatments, such as fat transfers and breast lifts.

Knowing the risks of breast implants is your greatest defense against them, and finding a certified plastic surgeon to perform the treatment will further reduce the potential for problems. Contact us today to find out more about breast implants, or to schedule an initial consultation with a licensed physician in your area.



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