Over the years there have been several claims that women with breast implants have a greater risk of developing cancer, however it has also been disputed and no solid evidence has ever been confirmed. However, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) have recently released a statement advising of an estimated risk of a rare cancer, anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), in a small number of women with breast implants.
Since 2007 (almost 10 years) the TGA have received 46 reports of ALCL in Australian women with breast implants with 3 of them losing their lives. There are 300 cases of ALCL in women with breast implants around the world. However, ALCL is not just a cancer in women with implants – it is a rare cancer but it affects both men and women. In fact, it is 2-3 times more likely to affect men than women and occurs anywhere in the body, not just breasts.
It must be said that there is still a way to go before any concrete evidence is confirmed regarding the link, and the TGA is still liaising with other groups around the world to better understand if indeed there is a link. The causes of ALCL in the general population is not known however in women with implants it is suggested to be related to the bacterial contamination of the implant when it is being inserted.
Obviously, this is something we want to keep an eye on, but it should be noted that the TGA have also suggested there is absolutely no need for any women with breast implants to have preventative removal. They advise you to simply discuss any concerns you might have with your doctor and as it is for all women, with or without implants, keep an eye on your breasts and report any changes to your doctor, and have the recommended breast scans as you normally would. The main symptom is swelling of the breast approximately 3 to 14 years after the insertion of breast implants and can present as a lump in the breast or armpit.
The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons and the Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons emphasise that the risk is still very low and breast implant associated ALCL is not breast cancer and in most cases can be treated by removing the implant.
We’ll keep you posted on any updates.