The Facts and Figures of Breast Implant-Associated Cancer

Breast cancer is a terrifying disease. What can be scarier are claims being misconstrued as facts. Exactly this happened last March with an FDA update claim on the associated risk of breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma or BIA-ALCL. To start, BIA-ALCL is not breast cancer, but an extremely rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or cancerous cells of the immune system. The link between implant and BIA-ALCL, however, is not fully understood. Adam Kolker, an associate clinical professor of surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City, believes the disease is a reaction to bacterial contamination, especially along textured implants. Basically, the textured shell of the implant can be victim to germ colonization.

Smooth Versus Textured

While 87% of the United States prefer smooth or natural implants, textured implants can be preferable for those looking for a more natural breast shape. Texture implants are also used in approximately 90% of abroad procedures in Europe and Australia. Should you be scared of possible BIA-ALCL if you have textured implants? To date, there have been 12 BIA-ALCL related deaths worldwide from a total of 30 million women with textured implants. Even there, a majority of these deaths were unfortunately the result of misdiagnoses, late diagnoses, and improper treatment.

Reality Check

Continued research is the key to understanding the link between textured breast implants and BIA-ALCL. A recent research study found that the risk of dying from BIA-ALCL with two textured breast implants is the same as drinking two glasses of wine or living two days in New York City. A second research study found that 70.3% of BIA-ALCL cases were associated with saline and silicone Allergan’s implants, which use a mix of micro- and macro-textures. Regardless of implant choice or research results, implant providers need to continue to support their customers by providing a variety of options. Reviewing the risks and benefits of available options is of the upmost importance for surgeons and their patients.

Better Boob Jobs

Breast surgeons continue to refine surgical approaches to implants. Safety is put first in the latest implant designs of cohesive silicone-gel implants, which do not leak when torn. Saline implants have seen a small spike recently, however, due to the Ideal Implant that received FDA approval back in 2014.

What’s Next

Breast implant manufacturers in the United States continue to put patients first and provide the most recent technology in cohesive gel-filled implants. Even with such a small risk, manufacturers such as Allergan take BIA-ALCL seriously. Another U.S. based manufacturer, Mentor, continues to invest in new processes, materials, and designs to provide patient satisfaction and reduced complications. Continued clinical trials are being conducted for both smooth and textured silicone-gel implants to help with safety and effectiveness. Vigilance is key when educating yourself on the risks of receiving breast implants.