It’s a scary topic, and one that’s come up before. Unfortunately, up to now, there has been no conclusive long term studies or data to prove a link between implants and cancer, or specifically Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphomal (ALCL), so the figures emerging that point to this link are to be monitored.
It is still a controversial issue and whilst the number of cases being reported are still low, there are enough for us to take notice. Dr Tim Papadopoulos, President of The Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery says in a recent press release, “to date there have been 170 reports of women being affected with ALCL related to breast implants and the potential risk is stated to be one in a million women with breast implants.” However, this doesn’t taken into account that there are between 5 and 10 million women worldwide with breast implants; and there has certainly been no specific worldwide efforts to identify how many of these women have been diagnosed with ALCL so there is no way to identify if this figure is higher, or indeed lower.
Regardless, the international medical community is starting to take notice and other countries are indeed now conducting separate studies and releasing their own findings. France has just announced that breast implants will from now, carry a warning after their National Cancer Institute found a “clear link” between silicone implants and ALCL. They do go on to say that there is no need to have the implants removed as the cancer is “so rare” and out of the 400,000 women with implants in France, 18 have been identified with breast implant associated ALCL.
It is because ALCL is incredibly rare, the number of cases found in women with breast implants led to the link being made. The cancer is said to form after the breast implant is in place and scar tissue forms around it creating a “tissue capsule”, or a fibrous pocket of tissue around the implant. ALCL usually forms in this tissue capsule and it is found in women with both saline and silicone implants, although the number of cases in silicone implants is higher.
This does not mean that if you have implants you need to break down and freak out and rush out and get them removed. The cases are extremely rare and apparently you are more likely to be hit by an asteroid! It simply means you need to be vigilant with keeping an eye on any changes in your breast and if you experience any changes, see your doctor. Dr Papadopoulos says, “At ASAPS we continue to advise that any women with breast implants who experience any sudden unexplained changes, lumps or swelling should speak to their GP or their surgeon for further evaluation.”