Breast augmentation is one of the most popular plastic procedures, and for good reason: a significant amount of women who have it done experience higher self-esteem, improved body image, and increased sexual satisfaction. It seems that getting implants can help a person in several ways, but every good thing comes with some type of risk. The fine print surrounding breast implants is coming to the light, and it points out a rather terrifying link between breast implants and a rare type of cancer.

Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma

The U.S. FDA has recently issued a warning regarding this specific cancer, which is called anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or ALCL. The warning explored the fact that the agency has seen a influx of this type of cancer. The common link between all the women who were diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma is they had breast implants.

A large number of doctors have been adamant about denying such claims. Most of the doctors who defend breast implants have been doing so for years. The FDA, on the other hand, has been gathering evidence and has seen 250 cases of ALCL in women. It has found that this ailment is definitely linked to breast implants. There is no clear evidence pointing out why doctors would oppose hard data on the issue. It bewilders those who have gathered this information. Doctors should be going back to the drawing board to figure out a solution and why this is affecting women, but denial seems to be the road that some of these doctors are taking.

Of course, some are quick to imply that the reason doctors are denying this evidence is because it benefits them to continue administering breast implants to women.

The FDA is not saying that the risk of developing this type of cancer is high. The FDA is actually saying that the risk is relatively low. This cancer is rare enough to only represent one to two percent of all the cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases. What the agency is attempting to do is make sure plastic surgeons divulge the fact that the risk of ALCL is still an important risk to highlight. Most patients are told that the risk is either non-existent or that the risk is so low that mentioning it is almost superfluous. The FDA knows better and wants the people to know better, too. This will give patients full disclosure of the risks that they might be exposed to, should they go through the procedure.

ALCL is treatable when detected in time. Plastic surgery societies in Australia want to take things a step further in order to provide as much help as possible. The societies are hoping that a breast device registry is created and becomes mandated. This registry will be for all women who had breast implants inserted, and it will help researchers track problems associated with implants. In essence, this will create a warning system that will help surgeons, doctors, and women who went through or are thinking of going through the breast implant procedure.

The FDA and some of the societies that exist outside of this country are hoping that informing the public about the risk of ALCL, no matter how small, will help women make a more informed decision. It is no secret that some of the women who are now suffering from ALCL would not have gotten their implants if they had known about the risk. The FDA wants to make sure that women do not feel cheated and do not regret getting their implants.

Anaplastic lymphoma starts as a small sack-like tissue that begins to grow around the implant. It takes a very long time to mature. In fact, it may take six to eight years to make its appearance. This makes the issue harder to track and deal with in a timely matter.

The Lymphoma Research Foundation has been studying ALCL for some time. The following are just a few symptoms that are associated with this ailment:

  • Unexplainable mild to high fevers
  • Backache, especially near the top of back and may not be explainable
  • There could be some lymph nodes swelling, though it could be painless
  • A noticeable loss of appetite
  • General fatigue or tiredness, even when well rested

Causes and treatments

It should be noted that there is no clear reason why breast implants cause this type of cancer. Still, some do speculate that it has something to do with the body’s immune system. The implants are foreign objects that are lodged in the body. The body’s immune system naturally attempts to fight and get rid of anything that it perceives as a danger. Another expert points out that ALCL seems to develop in a woman’s scar tissue around the implant, making the scar tissue around the implant the first place to look when investigating this issue.

One of the things that scares most women, after finding out the risks associated with breast implants, deals with chemotherapy. The fear of chemotherapy is a valid one. It is a very intense procedure that drains the body and can have drastic effects on the appearance of a person. It is understandable that a woman might be scared of this possible outcome. It should be noted that only 15 percent of the women with ALCL had to go through chemotherapy. Most cases involving this particular type of cancer went through a successful prognosis.

Chemotherapy, while undesirable, may also save lives. For example, Daiva Ratavicius Hoover was diagnosed with this particular ailment back in 2013. She had to go through a tumor removal procedure. She had the tumor and the breast implant removed. Hoover did have to through 18 sessions of grueling chemotherapy to ensure that the cancer was eradicated from her system. Hoover did not let her experience make her bitter about breast implants. In fact, she thinks it is something rare but also something that can be dealt with with proper care.

There are millions of women who have gone through a breast reduction or breast augmentation procedure yet only a few hundred cases of this cancer have been reported. The long term effects of implants are not fully understood just yet, but to say that this issue deems public panic is irrational. In short, Hoover wants women to not be scared. Most good plastic surgeons are taking their own precautions though. Some of them are talking to their patients about the risk of this disease, including providing pamphlets on ALCL, just to keep people informed.

The key, at least to most plastic surgeons, is that their patients are vigilant and report any strange occurrence to their surgeons. The health of a patient depends on knowledge, prevention, communication, and timely restoration.