Nine women die from rare cancer linked to breast implants

The cancer is linked to implants that have a textured surface

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Friday 08 February 2019 10:19 GMT
How to check for breast cancer

A type of cancer linked to breast implants has been diagnosed in more women, according to a statement from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

On Wednesday, the FDA said the number of cases of women diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) in the United States has increased to 457, up from 414 cases.

Nine women have died from the rare cancer that affects the immune system, a known risk from breast implants that was first reported by the FDA in 2011.

While the slow-growing lymphoma is not breast cancer, it is found around breast implants. Health officials also explained the lymphoma is more likely to occur in women who have implants with a textured coating rather than a smooth coating. Textured implants, which have a rougher outer layer meant to adhere to tissue surrounding them, are typically used in cases where the patient and surgeon do not want the implant to move around within the breast pocket.

To further increase the chances of detecting the disease before it becomes life-threatening, the FDA has issued a letter to health care providers.

In the letter, the FDA explains to doctors who regularly treat women the importance of learning about BIA-ALCL in patients with breast implants.

“We want all healthcare providers to be aware of BIA-ALCL, particularly in patients with new swelling, lumps, or pain around breast implants, to expedite diagnosis of this malignancy,” the letter reads. “This includes reporting individual cases as well as rates you may have experienced during your practise.”

In patients who have been diagnosed with the cancer, the disease was generally found “adjacent to the implant itself” and contained within the scar tissue surrounding the implant.

Treatment typically involves the removal of the implant and the capsule scar surrounding it. In some patients, chemotherapy and radiation are also required, according to the FDA.

An estimated 1.5m patients receive breast implants each year worldwide. However, the “different devices approved in each country, availability of products, variation in market share, extent of medical device adverse event reporting, and availability of information regarding the total number of implants sold differs from country to country,” make it difficult to determine risk rates on a global scale, the FDA said.

In France, where textured implants make up 85 per cent of the market, the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products asked in December that manufacturer Allergan recall textured implants over safety concerns.

To help educate patients who are considering implants, the FDA said it would continue to provide the most up-to-date information regarding breast implant varieties “so that patients and providers can have thorough and thoughtful discussions weighing the benefits and risks of different products”.

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The agency also encouraged those with implants to regularly check for swelling, one of the major symptoms of the disease.

You can learn how to self-examine your breasts here.

For more information on cancer, you can visit the National Cancer Institute, or Cancer Research UK. You can also find more information on BIA-ALCL here.

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