Anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (ALCL), a rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was first associated with breast implants in 2011, and the FDA has been investigating the link ever since.
The FDA has received 359 reports of the cancer associated with breast implants as of Feb. 1. However, the organization says, the number of cases could be underreported. The administration also found a stronger link between textured breast implants and this particular form of cancer. Of 359 cases the FDA uncovered, 231 had information on the surface of the implant — 203 were textured and 28 were smooth.
There does not seem to be a significant link between what’s in the implants and cancer — 312 of the 359 reports included information on implant contents, with 186 filled with silicone gel and 126 filled with saline.
It’s worth noting that anaplastic large-cell lymphoma is not a form of breast cancer. Rather, it’s a cancer of the immune system. Only about 1 percent of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are ALCLs, according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation, and symptoms typically include fever, backache, painless swelling of lymph nodes, loss of appetite, and tiredness. ALCL can appear in the skin via raised red skin lesions that don’t go away, in the lymph nodes, or in organs throughout the body, the Lymphoma Research Foundation says.
More than 290,000 women received breast augmentation in 2016, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons — a 4 percent increase over 2015 — making this a concern for a lot of women.
The FDA is not the only organization to link this form of cancer with breast implants: The World Health Organization also recognized it in 2016, and the Plastic Surgery Foundation and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network published information to help doctors understand more about the disease, its diagnosis, and treatment.
Brian Czerniecki, MD, chair of the Moffitt Cancer Center department of breast oncology, tells Yahoo Beauty that breast implants may cause cancer because they can create bodily inflammation. “Your body wants to create a wall around the implants,” he explains. “You get some inflammation — your immune system is attracted to that — and you can get lymphoma from your immune system being overstimulated.”
Textured implants may be particularly suspect because more of the implant goes into bodily tissue, causing more of an inflammatory response, Jack Jacoub, MD, medical oncologist and director of thoracic oncology at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells Yahoo Beauty.
Why use the textured implants? Surgeons do so if they want the implant to stay in place. Smooth implants are more likely to flip or shift.
Lymphoma is typically treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, Jacoub says, and patients who develop ALCL would also need to have their implants removed. But, he adds, “This type of lymphoma has a good prognosis if one does develop it.”
If you have breast implants, don’t panic and remove them out of an abundance of caution. Czerniecki points out that this is a pretty rare thing that can happen and you don’t want to have unnecessary surgery.
Roberto N. Miranda, MD, a professor of hematopathology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, tells Yahoo Beauty that women who have been diagnosed with this form of cancer present with some symptoms first, including a seroma — a pocket of fluid. “It’s not like any person who has an implant and no symptoms should be concerned,” Miranda says.
However, Jacoub notes it’s a good idea to do regular breast checks — typically, ALCL manifests as a lump — and be aware of the symptoms. If you notice something off, talk to your doctor right away.