A Link Between Breast Implants and ALCL Cancer

Board-Certified Plastic Surgeons Serving Denver & Lone Tree, Colorado

Posted: April 26, 2017
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Recently, you may have heard news reports that breast implants have been linked to cancer. At Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery, we understand that the headlines may cause concern for our patients and women considering breast augmentation. We hope to answer your most pressing questions here, but please call our office at 303-706-1100 to address your personal questions.

Breast Implants and Cancer

What is the link between breast implants and cancer?

Anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) is an extremely rare form of cancer. It is not a type of breast cancer. It affects the cells in the immune system and can be found around the breast implant, skin, and lymph nodes. It is usually treatable and not often fatal.

Of the 231 reported cases that contained information about the breast implant, 203 of the implants had a textured surface. Researchers are not certain yet why textured implants may increase risk. The texture may cause abrasion that causes the body’s immune system to react and develop the disease over an eight to ten year period.

How common is the link?

Only 359 cases have been reported out of the 10 to 11 million women who have breast implants around the world. Each year less than 10 patients are diagnosed with implant-related ALCL. The estimated incidence is 1 in 30,000.

The FDA has reported that "all of the information to date suggests that women with breast implants have a very low but increased risk of developing ALCL compared to women who do not have breast implants."

What should I do if I have breast implants?

The FDA is not recommending that women remove breast implants. They do recommend that women with breast implants undergo regular breast exams, as all women should to increase the likelihood of early diagnoses and treatment should cancer develop.

Women with breast implants should look for breast swelling, which can be a sign of ALCL. A majority of the women with breast implant-associated ALCL will experience fluid collection around one breast, which causes it to swell. Some women may feel a mass or lump in the breasts or lymph nodes.  

If you notice any changes in your breasts, consult your physician for testing, which should include a screening test called CD30 that can detect ALCL.

What should I do if I am considering breast implants?

If you are considering undergoing breast augmentation, it is important to discuss the risks and benefits of textured versus smooth implants with us. We can help you fully understand your choices so that you can make an informed decision. 

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