The Truth About Breast Implant Cancer

Whew—this is certainly not shaping up to be a fabulous PR month for the Dr. 90210s of the world. First, a German porn star dies in the midst of her sixth breast enhancement surgery. Now, the FDA is reporting that both saline and silicone breast implants may lead to a rare cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or ALCL.

The agency went through tons of medical and scientific reports from 1997 up to last May and found 60 cases of the disease in women who had boob jobs. ALCL appears in the scar tissue that surrounds the implant, and it is NOT a form of breast cancer. It's actually a type of lymphoma, a cancer of the cells of the immune system, which can occur in many different parts of the body.

Symptoms include long-term swelling or pain near the implant, the development of fluid around the implant, and in some cases, scarring around the implant.


As freaky and awful as it sounds, it turns out that ALCL linked to breast implants is supposedly less aggressive—and more easily treated—than other forms of the disease. And while it can be deadly, the numbers don't really seem to reflect a HUGE risk. As the FDA reported, there were only 60 cases of ALCL over the course of 13 years in the 5-10 millions of women who have breast implants ... So, maybe it isn't that big and hairy a deal. Either way, it sure is good to bear in mind.

After all, Bridalplasty contestants and regular Janes alike should be reminded that the average boob job doesn't necessarily equal nonstop Victoria's Secret cleavage and perky bikini dreams. There is also the potential for some nasty downstream effects, such as surgical complications, ruptured implants, or capsular contracture (which occurs when the scar tissue or capsule that normally forms around the implant tightens and squeezes the implant). In the past, silicone implants in particular were linked to various illnesses, including cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.

So, as with any type of surgical procedure, it's probably best to exercise caution, do research so you know the facts, and work with the most patient and knowledgeable physician you can find.

To the ladies who already have faux-busts, the news about ALCL is by no means a code red emergency alert to run to your surgeon and request removal. The FDA says that if you should note any strange symptoms (like the above), check with your doc. Duh.

Does learning about ALCL make you less likely to ever consider breast enhancement surgery?


Image via CraigFinlay/Flickr

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