On March 21, 2017, the FDA issued a safety communication updating physicians and patients about a potential cancer risk associated with textured breast implants. They released a similar warning back in 2011 when it linked breast implants to an increased risk of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). ALCL is a rare type of blood cancer that develops when white blood cells divide uncontrollably. As of February 1, 2017, the FDA had received a total of 359 reports of breast implant-related ALCL.
Florida Woman Diagnosed with ALCL 23 Years After Breast Implant Surgery
In a recent Today report, a Florida woman told her story of suffering this type of cancer. Florida resident Stacey Boone had breast augmentation surgery in 1990 using “textured implants,” which are implants with a “pebbly” surface, making them less likely to move than the traditional “smooth” implants.
At the time of the surgery, Ms. Boone was unaware of which kind of implants her surgeons were using and of any differences between the two types.
After her augmentation surgery, Ms. Boone had no problems with her implants. In 2013, however, she developed symptoms like those associated with the flu. She also noticed a large lump in her clavicle area, and her left breast grew in size and felt hot to the touch. Doctors treated her with antibiotics, but she didn’t rebound as expected. She also lost over 40 pounds over a three-month period.
Ms. Boone discovered she had four lumps under one arm after receiving an ultrasound scan. The very next day, she was diagnosed with stage 4 ALCL.
Risk of ALCL 67 Times Higher in Women with Textured Breast Implants
The FDA has received more reports of cancer related to textured than smooth implants. And there are some theories as to why textured implants may have a higher risk of this cancer than smooth implants. A 2016 study, for example, found that textured implants supported a “higher bacterial load” than smooth implants and that the bacteria housed there were related to a type of infection. Bacteria can hide away on the surface of the implant, causing irritation and inflammation that may develop into cancer over a period of many years.
Though the overall risk of ALCL is rare, the risk is about 67 times higher for those who receive textured breast implants, according to a 2017 study.
Ms. Boone went through four rounds of chemotherapy, plus a stem-cell transplant, and had both implants removed. As of the Today report, she was in remission, but she says that she came near death during her treatments.
Women with breast implants should check for any unusual lumps or bumps, and watch for any changes in shape or feel of the breasts or any enlargement or swelling. If they develop any of these symptoms, they should immediately report them to their doctors.