New Data Shows Breast Implant Cancer More Likely Than Believed

Breast implant cancer is more common than believed, according to new reports. What’s worse, since breast implant cancer was once described as very rare, many women with possible symptoms were sent home by their doctors. This is because breast implant cancer can be difficult to diagnose.

Breast Implant Cancer On the Rise

As of July 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had noted 573 worldwide cases of suspected breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

These numbers are echoed by a reconstructive breast surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who estimates the prevalence of breast implant cancer is 10 times greater than reported.

What was once considered extremely rare is now being considered an “emerging malignancy.”

For example, Canada’s health agency reported a total of 106 cases of BIA-ALCL, with nearly half of those coming after the country banned the breast implants associated with the cancer.

Breast Implant Cancer Difficult to Diagnose

On top of these alarming new figures is the concern over breast implant cancer being tough to diagnose.

Reports show that many women have visited their doctors with symptoms that could be related to their breast implants — such as rashes and itchiness — but were often sent home. Without a proper diagnosis and treatment, the cancer could spread undetected to other parts of the body.

Removals are risky and breast implant cancer was thought to be rare. This has led to medical organizations across the globe recommending not removing implants unless a patient has received a breast implant cancer diagnosis.

What is BIA-ALCL?

BIA-ALCL is a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cancer of the immune system). It is found mostly in the scar tissue and fluid near the implant. It can sometimes spread throughout the body. It is considered serious and can be deadly, especially if it is not promptly diagnosed and treated.

Symptoms of breast implant cancer include:

  • Pain in the area of the implant
  • Persistent swelling
  • Strange masses or lumps near the implant

Surgery can often treat the cancer successfully by removing the implant and scar tissue. Radiation or chemotherapy can also be successful treatment options.

Which Breast Implants Have Been Recalled?

Most cases of breast implant cancer have been linked to Allergan’s BIOCELL implants. Many of these implants were recalled by Allergan following an FDA request on July 24, 2019.

According to the FDA, the following products have been recalled:

  • Allergan Natrelle Saline-Filled Breast Implants
    • Style 163 – BIOCELL Textured Shaped Full Height, Full Projection Saline Breast Implants
    • Style 168 – BIOCELL Textured Round Moderate Profile Saline Breast Implants, also referred to as 168MP (168 Moderate Profile)
    • Style 363 – BIOCELL Textured Shaped Moderate Height, Full Projection Saline Breast Implants, Allergan catalog includes 363LF, or 363 Low Height Full Projection
    • Style 468 – BIOCELL Textured Shaped Full Height Moderate Projection Saline Breast Implants
  • Allergan Natrelle Silicone-Filled Textured Breast Implants
    • Style 110 – BIOCELL Textured Round Moderate Projection Gel Filled Breast Implants
    • Style 115 – BIOCELL Textured Round Midrange Projection Gel Filled Breast Implants
    • Style 120 – BIOCELL Textured Round High Projection Gel Filled Breast Implants
    • Style TRL – Natrelle Inspira BIOCELL Textured Responsive Silicone-Filled Breast Implants
    • Style TRLP – Natrelle Inspira BIOCELL Textured Responsive Silicone-Filled Breast Implants
    • Style TRM – Natrelle Inspira BIOCELL Textured Responsive Silicone-Filled Breast Implants
    • Style TRF – Natrelle Inspira BIOCELL Textured Responsive Silicone-Filled Breast Implants
    • Style TRX – Natrelle Inspira BIOCELL Textured Responsive Silicone-Filled Breast Implants
    • Style TCL – Natrelle Inspira BIOCELL Textured Cohesive Silicone-Filled Breast Implants
    • Style TCLP – Natrelle Inspira BIOCELL Textured Cohesive Silicone-Filled Breast Implants
    • Style TCM – Natrelle Inspira BIOCELL Textured Cohesive Silicone-Filled Breast Implants
    • Style TCF – Natrelle Inspira BIOCELL Textured Cohesive Silicone-Filled Breast Implants
    • Style TCX – Natrelle Inspira BIOCELL Textured Cohesive Silicone-Filled Breast Implants
    • Style TSL – Natrelle BIOCELL Textured Soft Touch Silicone-Filled Breast Implants
    • Style TSLP – Natrelle BIOCELL Textured Soft Touch Silicone-Filled Breast Implants
    • Style TSM – Natrelle BIOCELL Textured Soft Touch Silicone-Filled Breast Implants
    • Style TSF – Natrelle BIOCELL Textured Soft Touch Silicone-Filled Breast Implants
    • Style TSX – Natrelle BIOCELL Textured Soft Touch Silicone-Filled Breast Implants
  • Natrelle 410 Highly Cohesive Anatomically Shaped Silicone Filled Breast Implants
    • Style 410FM
    • Style 410FF
    • Style 410MM
    • Style 410 MF
    • Style 410 FL
    • Style 410 ML
    • Style 410 LL
    • Style 410 LM
    • Style 410 LF
    • Style 410 FX
    • Style 410 MX
    • Style 410 LX
  • Allergan tissue expanders with BIOCELL texturing
    • Natrelle 133 Plus Tissue Expander (K143354)
    • Natrelle 133 Tissue Expander with Suture Tabs (K102806)

On its official site, the FDA announced this was a Class I recall — the most serious type, as it is associated with risk of serious injury or death.

Are My Implants on This List?

Many women have found themselves wondering what kind of breast implants they have.

All implanted devices come with a patient device card which includes the manufacturer, a unique identifier, and a model name.

However, the best way to learn more about manufacturers and breast implant cancer risks is to contact the plastic surgeon who performed your surgery. This can give you a better idea of what to expect and how to take action if you are in danger.