Rare Breast Cancer Linked to Implants
In 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alerted the public there was a possibility breast implants might be linked to an extremely rare form of cancer, according to CNN. The FDA described the possibility as a “small but significant risk.”
In 2016, US Today reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that breast implants were associated with anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). But the FDA didn’t issue a similar alert for Americans until 2017, according to The New York Times.”
The safety alert it released then cited nine deaths connected to the implants. It also revealed that the FDA had 359 reports of implant recipients with ALCL. Critics contend the FDA’s medical device tracing system is so flawed that it is “inaccurate, untimely, unverified or biased.” A 2012 Consumer Reports investigation called it so unreliable, that the only “safety testing” of medical devices is often “in the bodies of unsuspecting patients.”
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Have an implant? These symptoms are serious
ALCL is not breast cancer. It’s a “rare malignancy in the immune system.” Pain around an implant, swelling, redness, and hardening of the area, a build-up of fluid or a mass around it can be signs of ALCL. ALCL is usually treated successfully by removing the implant and the tissue around it. But as USA Today reports, chemotherapy and radiation have also been used to treat it.
One type of implant is more likely to cause ALCL
Implants with a pebbly surface are more likely to cause ALCL. According to The New York Times, of the 359 reported cases of ALCL the FDA received, just 231 included information about the implants’ surface. Of those, 203 had implants with a pebbly surface and 28 had implants with a smooth surface. Scientists are uncertain why textured surfaces appear to be implicated more often in cases of ALCL. But studies have shown that the body’s reaction to textured implants is different from its reaction to implants with a smooth surface.
The Times reports that in 2016, 109,000 women in the U.S. had implants after having cancerous breasts removed and 209,000 had them implanted for cosmetic reasons.
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