Breast implant cancer has been found in – and killed – more women than previously thought, federal health officials have announced.
At least 457 women in the U.S. have now been diagnosed with a type of cancer called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL, the FDA said in a statement released last week. As a result, 9 women died.
These figures are up from FDA data collected in 2011, when the agency first raised the possibility of a “small but significant” risk of developing cancer from breast implants. At that point, only 60 cases of BIA-ALCL were found among the 5 to 10 million women worldwide with breast implants. Today, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the number of breast implant patients has reached 10 to 11 million.
FDA’s ‘Expected’ Increase of Breast Implant Cancer
Breast implant surgery remains popular in the U.S. According to ASPS, it’s the top cosmetic surgery performed.
That said, the FDA said it aims “to provide patients with the most up-to-date information about the variety of breast implants available” – including their size, implant fill, and surface texture – “so that patients and providers can have thorough and thoughtful discussions weighing the benefits and risks of different products,” according to its statement.
The FDA’s latest data shows that, between 2010 and 2018, it received 660 adverse event reports (MDRs) regarding BIA-ALCL. Of those, there were 457 “unique” cases of the disease (not including duplicate reports from doctors and manufacturers) and the 9 patient deaths.
“We understand that the information presented shows an increase of 246 new MDRs since last year,” the FDA said, attributing the increase to its efforts encouraging patients and doctors to file reports. “We hope that this information prompts providers and patients to have important, informed conversations about breast implants,” the FDA said.
In a warning letter, the FDA asked healthcare providers to take serious note of the link between breast implants and cancer and to report individual cases as well as rates they may have experienced in the past. But patients, too, can do their due diligence. What should they look out for?
What to Know If You Have Breast Implants
When breast implants are placed in the body, they are inserted behind the breast tissue or under chest muscle, where the body forms scar tissue called a “capsule” around the implant. The capsule, which is susceptible to bacterial infection, is where BIA-ALCL usually forms.
As it did in 2011, the FDA is asking healthcare providers once again to look for changes that could indicate the presence of BIA-ALCL. Patients most at risk are those with:
- Textured implants, which are linked to far more breast implant cancer cases than their smooth-surface counterparts.
- Signs and symptoms such as fluid build-up, lumps, redness, or pain around the implants long after they are supposed to have healed.
- Problems that appear as many as 8 to 10 years after breast implant surgery.
Anyone considering breast implant surgery should consider options best suited to individual needs and discuss potential risks and benefits with their surgeon. It’s also crucial to undergo routine screenings to monitor the implants for any changes, the FDA warned.
If you’ve already noticed changes, you’re advised not to panic. Though all studies agree that women with breast implants are at increased risk of developing anaplastic large cell lymphoma compared to those without, the disease remains extremely rare, slow-growing, and treatable when detected early. The important thing, if you notice issues, is to report early.
Need more information on breast implant cancer? Find extensive resources and information on everything from diagnosis to prognosis here.