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Breast Implants Linked to 51 Cancer Reports in Australia

Breast Implants Linked to 51 Cancer Reports in Australia

April 20, 2017 — Health officials in Australia have reported 51 cases of Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL) in women with textured breast implants since 2007, including 3 deaths.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also published an update regarding safety issues with breast implants in March 2017. The agency reported 9 deaths and over 350 cases of ALCL.

Experts with the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) provided answers to some of the most common questions. For example, mammograms are not helpful for diagnosing ALCL. The experts recommended:

“If you develop swelling of an implanted breast your doctor will send you for an ultrasound scan to see if this is due to a fluid collection. If fluid is present it will be removed and sent to the laboratory for analysis. Most fluid collections are not ALCL, but the laboratory test will be able to tell for sure.”

ALCL is a rare type of lymphoma that causes breast swelling due to fluid accumulating around the implant, typically 3 to 14 years after breast implant surgery (8 years on average). It can occur as soon as 1 year after breast implant surgery, or up to 37 years.

Less commonly, ALCL from breast implants causes a lump in the armpit. Women who notice these symptoms (swelling or a hard lump) should seek medical attention. Most cases of ALCL are cured by removal of the breast implant and the tissue surrounding the implant, but there are a few reports of aggressive (fast-growing) types of cancer.

Experts estimate that 1 woman out of 5,000 women with breast implants will develop ALCL within 3 to 14 years of getting the implants. Because the risk is low, experts do not recommend removing breast implants for women who are not having problems.

However, all breast implants generally must be removed in 10-15 years due to complications like contracture (hard or painful implants) or movement of the implant. These risks increase the longer the implant remains in the body.

The risk of ALCL may be reduced by using smooth implants instead of textured implants that can cause low-level chronic infections. The current theory is that that T-cell stimulation due to a chronic bacterial biofilm infection increases the risk of ALCL developing on implants.

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