If you are looking to get breast implants you may have heard about the possibility of developing cancer. Some say you shouldn’t get them at all to stay out of the danger of cancer. So how true is that? Should you reconsider another approach to improve the appearance of your breasts?
The breast implant is one of the most common cosmetic surgeries in the world. Breast surgery can have a positive impact on a person’s life. In 2015, nearly 280,000 women in the US alone have breast augmentation through silicone or saline implants, and about 106,000 breast cancer patients with a history of breast resection (mastectomy) have used implants to repair this part.
However, any medical procedure can also pose certain risks; breast implants are no exception. Recently it is known that one of the risks is breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). Various medical articles and information have been published about the issue that we want to briefly discuss here.
Breast augmentation by breast implant falls into the category of reconstructive plastic surgery and gynecology. This surgery is usually performed to improve the aesthetic aspects of this organ. If there is a specific malformation in the breast, this surgery will also have a therapeutic aspect. It is also used for breast reconstruction after amputation, for example, because of breast cancer. The breast implant consists of two parts called the shell and the filler, which are mainly salt or silicone fillers. The shape of the implant is determined by its shell.
BIA-ALCL stands for “Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma”. This is a rare type of cancer that should not be confused with breast cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are discussing a possible link between BIA-ALCL and breast implants. However, this has not been substantiated. Previous studies, attempting to establish a link between the implant and this type of lymphoma, cannot be scientifically cited because of the limited data available. The FDA currently has about 600 registered cases, while there are more than 35,000,000 implant carriers. Given this, it can be said that the incidence of this type of cancer in implant holders is less than one in every 50,000. On the other hand, considering that one in nine women has breast cancer, that number will be even lower.
Researchers say it is not clear exactly how breast implants can cause ALCL. The condition may be due to chronic inflammation around the implant, whether due to the implant itself or bacteria that grow on the implant surface. The structure of the breast implant surface is thought to play a role in this; therefore, implants with rough and textured surfaces are more likely to be associated with BIA-ALCL than those with smooth walls. One possible reason is that textured surfaces provide more space for bacterial growth and proliferation. These bacteria, in turn, can cause infection, which in very rare cases results in BIA-ALCL. The theory is also shaky, as more than 30 cases of BIA-ALCL had smooth implants.
BIA-ALCL occurs mostly in the tissues surrounding the breast implant, but may also spread to other areas of the body, including lymph nodes.
The most common symptoms of this type of cancer are:
• Continuous swelling or pain in the breast implant area, although surgery has been performed many years ago.
• Collection of fluid around the breast implant
• Creating scar tissue capsules around the breast implant. This does not mean, however, that the formation of any capsule leads to the formation of BIA-ALCL.
These symptoms often occur several years or even decades after breast implant surgery.
Half of the cases reported with BIA-ALCL were often reported within 7 to 8 years after breast implantation. If your doctor suspects BIA-ALCL, he or she will perform various tests to rule out other causes associated with these symptoms. For example, a physician may perform a biopsy of the tissue or remove secretions produced at the site with the help of ultrasound. Science has made remarkable progress in recent years and has provided good diagnostic standards.
If BIA-ALCL is diagnosed early, just removal of the breast implant and the surrounding capsule is sufficient for treatment. In cases where the diagnosis is later, in addition to the implant and its associated capsule removal, chemotherapy is used to control cancer. This type of lymphoma progresses very slowly and is well managed and treated.
Any link between breast implants and cancer is worrying. However, these findings do not mean changing your treatment plan or removing your breast implant. A prophylactic change of breast implants or even removal without symptoms is NOT recommended by experts and also by the FDA. Ask your doctor for regular checkups and report any signs or symptoms, such as breast swelling, masses, pain, or breast shape changes. If you are considering breast implant , talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits.