All surgical procedures have their own benefits and potential risks and complications. Determining if the advantages outweigh the surgery’s downsides is of utmost importance. So when news broke that there is a possibility that a breast augmentation patient can develop breast implants cancer, people who are either planning to get breast enhancements or already got theirs years ago started to panic. But what is the truth about breast implants cancer?
Breast implants cancer: What is it?
In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had acknowledged a possible relationship between breast implants and the breast-implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). This type of cancer is a rare type that affects the lymphatic system that is responsible for managing our body’s immune system. The presence or incidence during that time of BIA-ALCL is very rare, but come 2017, the FDA already compiled and received 414 reports of BIA-ALCL including nine patients losing their lives from it.
Breast implants cancer: Who is at risk?
When we talk about breast implants cancer, we think that everyone who has had breast augmentation in the past is going to have it. That assumption is wrong. In fact, the FDA and the World Health Organisation (WHO) found out that most of the cancer patients had textured breast implants. The report also showed that more or less 50% of the reported cases were identified within 7-8 years of implantation. This information does not specify if the patients have had their original implants at the time of the diagnosis or if replacement already took place.
Breast implants cancer: Is it here in Australia?
Yes. According to the report of the FDA, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) reported a comprehensive investigation of at least 40 patients with established cases of BIA-ALCL in Australia, together with the mortality of 3 women. Moreover, the TGA has confirmed ten additional cases in Australian patients in September 2016.
Breast implants cancer: Is this breast cancer?
No. BIA-ALCL, as mentioned earlier, is a rare type of cancer that involves the lymphatic system. It affects the lymph nodes that surround the breast tissue of patients who have had breast augmentation.
Breast implants cancer: What is the next step?
So far, both the FDA and WHO acknowledge this type of cancer as a rare type of T-cell lymphoma. They encourage professional organisations including the Plastic Surgery Foundation and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) to publish material about the facts and figures of BIA-ALCL to allow physicians to understand the disease and provide diagnosis and treatment.
If you are currently using breast implants, the FDA assures that you have very little to worry about. For one, the incidence of BIA-ALCL is very rare, so there is still no reason to panic. Breast implants are well-researched and studied medical devices, so its quality and safety are stringently determined before being marketed to the public.
On the contrary, the FDA and WHO advise physicians and plastic surgeons to include BIA-ALCL as part of the potential risks and complications of breast augmentation. This provides complete transparency about the pros and cons of having this type of plastic surgery. The FDA also recommends the need to have a regular MRI scan every three years for patients with breast implants to continue monitoring of the implants and the breasts as well.