Before getting breast implants, most women have many questions about what their lives will be like after breast augmentation or reconstruction – including whether they will be at an increased risk of cancer. Some women with breast implants have developed a rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). The voluntarily recall of Allergan’s BIOCELL® textured breast implants occurred for this reason. Researching the risk of cancer with different types of breast implants could help you decide on the type that will give you the greatest peace of mind.
The recent Allergan breast implant recall sheds light on the differences between textured and smooth implants in terms of safety. The recall focuses on Allergan’s BIOCELL® products, which have a unique textured shell only Allergan uses. Allergan and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) note that the company’s smooth and MICROCELL® breast implants are not part of the recall, as studies have not connected them to an increased risk of BIA-ALCL. The textured implants, however, may cause excessive irritation.
Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma may stem from the implant rubbing against the tissues in the chest. Over time, this can cause the buildup of fluid and cell damage – potentially causing anaplastic large cell lymphoma. At the time of diagnosis, 385 women had textured breast implants and only 26 had smooth, according to FDA data. This data points to a greater risk of cancer with textured implant surfaces.
The FDA recommended the recall after analyzing all known cases of BIA-ALCL (573 cases) and finding that 84% of patients with this type of cancer had Allergan breast implants when doctors diagnosed them. Allergan’s breast implants were also connected to 12 of the 13 deaths related to BIA-ALCL where researchers know the implant manufacturer. Based on the current information, patients with Allergan’s BIOCELL® textured implants have six times the risk of developing BIA-ALCL than with textured implants from other manufacturers. The risk of developing this uncommon immune system cancer is still very low.
Many women also worry about the risks associated with silicone implants vs. saline implants. Silicone implants use silicone gel fillers, while saline implants use sterile salt water. If a breast implant ruptures or leaks, the material inside the implant can flow into the breast tissues or throughout the body. The body will naturally absorb saline, but not silicone. In some cases of silicone implant ruptures, the gel can leak past the capsule of scar tissue surrounding the breast implant and spread into the chest, arms or torso. In very rare cases, scar tissue may form around the silicone and create silicone granulomas.
Despite the risk of granulomas, research has not shown increased odds of developing cancer with silicone vs. saline implants. Women with silicone implants may experience other complications, but the FDA has not confirmed any research showing links between silicone and cancer – even if the implant ruptures or leaks. One 2018 study stated that silicone breast implants come with a higher risk of autoimmune disorders, stillbirth and melanoma, but the FDA discredited the study, saying they respectfully disagreed with its conclusions due to significant shortcomings and biases.
If you are considering breast implants for augmentation or breast reconstruction after mastectomy, review all your options with help from a health care provider. The FDA has warned patients and physicians to stop using Allergan BIOCELL® textured implants and tissue expanders, but other saline and silicone implants may not pose an increased risk of BIA-ALCL.
After decades of research, the FDA has also noted a connection between BIA-ALCL and textured implants. You may want to choose smooth, saline-filled breast implants for the safest option. If complications do arise, the breast implant manufacturer may owe you compensation for defective or dangerous products. A personal injury lawyer in Southern California could review your case for signs of wrongdoing.