The old saying “Beauty is only skin deep”, but cancer can go deeper
applies to breast implant cancer risk too.
U.S. government health officials are investigating a possible link between breast implants and a very rare form of cancer known as anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) after reviewing a handful of cases reported over the last 13 years.
ALC attacks the lymph nodes and skin, and has been reported in the scar tissue that grows around implants. So far, the data suggest women with silicone or saline-gel breast implants “may have a very small but significant risk of ALCL in the scar capsule adjacent to the implant,” the agency said.
The body considers the implant as a foreign substance and sends immune boosting cells to the area around the scar tissue to get rid of it. If it cannot the cell mutation occurs and this can lead to cancer.
The cancer, anaplastic large-cell lymphoma, involves the immune system. It is not breast cancer. It is usually a systemic disease, but in the cases linked to implants, the lymphoma grew in the breast, usually in the capsule of scar tissue that formed around the implant. The cases were discovered because women developed symptoms long after they had healed from the implant surgery lumps, pain, asymmetry of the breasts, fluid buildup and swelling.
Anaplastic large-cell lymphoma begins after scar tissue is formed around the implant:
lumps, pain, asymmetry of the breasts, fluid buildup and swelling.
In some cases simply removing the implant and scar tissue gets rid of the disease, but some women might need chemotherapy and radiation, said Dr. William Maisel, the chief scientist and deputy director for science in the drug agency’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. He said there was some evidence, though not conclusive, that the form of this lymphoma found in implant patients was less aggressive than the usual type.
“We need more data and are asking that health-care professionals tell us about any confirmed cases they identify,” said Dr. William Maisel, chief scientist in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s device unit.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is asking doctors to report all cases of the cancer so the agency can better understand the association. The agency is aware of just 60 cases of the disease worldwide among the estimated five million to 10 million women with implants.
This type of lymphoma in the breast is normally found in only 3 in 100 million women who do not have implants.
The devices are marketed in the U.S. by Allergan Inc. and Mentor Corp.
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