According to BreastCancer.org, about 1 in 8 American women will have invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. In 2017 alone, there were 252,710 new cases of the disease, with 40,610 women expected to die from it within the year.
Given the ferocity with which this disease attacks women, many who have been diagnosed with the disease or those who are at risk for it have opted to have their breasts removed to minimize its effects and to risk it from recurring. Unfortunately for these survivors, life has a bitter twist for them. It seemed that the method that helped them get rid of the cancer paved the way for it to enter their bodies again.
The Breast Implant Link
The Leukaemia Foundation writes that “Anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It is made up of either malignant T-cells (type of cells in the immune system) or ‘Null-lymphocytes’ (lack both B or T-cell markers).”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first linked implants and ALCL in 2011, and it has been added into the products’ labeling. Unfortunately, not many people paid attention to the label and no implants were recalled. Now, you may be thinking that just a small number of people are having breast surgery. However, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons recently released a report that breast augmentation (boob jobs that involve implants or fat grafts) is the top plastic surgery procedure performed in 2016, with 290,000 boob jobs being within a year.
This is not to say that all these women are at risk of incurring ALCL. In fact, a tiny portion of those who underwent a breast augmentation procedure are found to be diagnosed with the disease. In concurrence with the World Health Organization, they reclassified the disease to breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). Unfortunately, reporting of incidence rates is inconclusive due to “significant limitations in world-wide reporting and lack of global implant sales data.” The FDA ends with, “most data suggest that BIA-ALCL occurs more frequently following implantation of breast implants with textured surfaces rather than those with smooth surfaces.” As of writing, the FDA records a total of 359 reported cases of BIA-ALCL.
In March this year, the CBS News reports that there have been “nine deaths linked to rare cancer from breast implants.”
These things being said, the FDA and other health experts are urging women with implants to be more vigilant about their health. According to the FDA, the main symptoms of the disease are “persistent swelling or pain in the vicinity of the breast implant. These symptoms may occur well after the surgical incision has healed, often years after implant placement.” A noticeable scar capsule around the implant was also present in most cases.
Thankfully, the cancer seems to be treatable as long as the implant and the tumor have been removed. In some cases however, the cancer was diagnosed too late, which significantly lowered the patient’s shot at having a full recovery.